December 2020 in Central Asia is remembered for the start of the election campaign in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan; high-level official meetings of the CIS and CSTO; arrangements for the new 2021; several protests; power outages and the still tenuous epidemiological situation in the region.
The analytical platform CABAR.asia presents a brief overview of the major events in the region over the past month.
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The epidemiological situation in Kazakhstan has been rather tenuous over this month. As of December 31, the country reports a total of 155,473 COVID-19 cases and 2,262 deaths.
Kazakh Health Ministry has detached pneumonia data from tallying COVID-19 numbers since August 1, 2020. As of December 31, Kazakhstan reports a total of 45,723 cases of pneumonia and 499 deaths.
The country’s Health Ministry says the resurgence in COVID-19 numbers and its peak should be expected in the first months of 2021.
As of December 31, Atyrau and Akmola regions are in the red quarantine zone.
Kostanay, Pavlodar, North Kazakhstan, and West Kazakhstan regions, together with Nursultan and Almaty cities, are assigned to the yellow zone. Territories are assigned to red and yellow quarantine zones if they score high in the COVID-19 risk assessment level.
Kazakhstan began producing the Russian Sputnik V vaccine on December 21. The Karaganda pharmaceutical complex plans to produce 2 million doses of coronavirus vaccine.
Prime Minister Askar Mamin said that Sputnik V mass vaccination will start in February 2021. Government officials, students, health workers, and people with chronic diseases will be first to get vaccinated.
The third stage of clinical trials of the national QazCovid-in vaccine started in Almaty on December 19. A large biopharmaceutical plant for the production of immunobiological drugs is under construction in the Zhambyl region. The domestic coronavirus vaccine will also be produced over there.
Resumption of activities
On December 25, the chief sanitary doctor of Kazakhstan, Yerlan Kiyasov, signed a decree on the gradual lifting of quarantine rules.
Authorities permitted, from the beginning of 2021, reopening of schools and universities; conducting individual and group practice in sports complexes; the movement of passenger and commuter trains; holding republican championships and competitions.
Kazakh authorities also permitted certain types of economic activity, including national companies, the quasi-public sector, business centers, financial market entities, wholesale and retail trade facilities, malls, airports, bus and railway stations, industrial facilities, and many others.
Owing to the tenuous epidemiological situation, Kazakhstan has extended tighter quarantine measures. For the period between December 25 and January 5, the authorities had barred New Year’s celebrations in all organizations and institutions across the country.
On December 3, Kazakh President Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev met with the Deputy Head of Russian Presidential Administration Dmitry Kozak in Nursultan.
At the meeting, the parties deliberated on trade and economic cooperation development prospects. They have also discussed the production of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine in Kazakhstan.
On December 2, Dmitry Kozak met in Tashkent with the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev. The parties reviewed the upcoming summits to be held in 2021.
According to some sources, most of Kozak’s negotiations with the heads of the Central Asian states took place behind closed doors.
Election Campaign Start
The election campaign in Kazakhstan started at 6 pm on December 10; it will last until midnight on January 9. The date preceding the voting day, January 10, has been declared a “Day of Silence”. The results of polls, forecasts, or studies concerning elections should not be published within five days prior to and on the voting day.
The CEC registered party lists of five political parties, a total of 312 candidates, of which 90 are women. 19 candidates are under the age of 29. The youngest candidate born in 1995, the oldest born in 1950. The average age of a candidate is 46.7 years. The party lists include 34 deputies of the Majilis of the parliament’s current, sixth convocation.
Nur Otan’s party list consists of 126 people, the list of the People’s Party of Kazakhstan (formerly the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan) of 113, the parties Ak Zhol and Adal (formerly Birlik) have 38 and 16 people, respectively. According to the CEC, the parties will be represented on the ballot in the following order: People’s Party, Nur Otan, Auyl, Ak Zhol, Adal.
On January 10, Kazakhstanis to elect 98 deputies of the Mazhilis by party lists. Nine more Majilis deputies are elected by the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan.
Former President Nursultan Nazarbayev has the most deputy mandates in the current Majilis with 84 people from the Nur Otan party. The Ak Zhol party and the People’s Party each have seven seats.
This will be the first parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan after the resignation of Nursultan Nazarbayev, who ruled for almost 30 years and despite resigning in 2019, retains significant influence over the state apparatus. He is the chairman of the Nur Otan party, which dominates the country’s political space; the life-long chairman of the influential Security Council; and he also enjoys the title of “leader of the nation”, which guarantees him and his family members the inviolability of assets and immunity from legal process of any kind.
According to the law “On elections”, only candidates nominated by parties can be elected to Majilis and maslikhats. According to the 2018 amendments to the law, self-nominated candidates cannot run for office. Since last year, several initiative groups and organizations have announced plans to register their associations as political parties and participate in elections. But they did not manage to create parties before the elections alluding to the impediments on the side of the authorities.
Controversial statements by the Russian deputy
On December 11, Russian Deputy of the State Duma Vyacheslav Nikonov made controversial comments pertaining to Kazakhstan’s territory.
Nikonov has described Kazakhstan’s current territory as being “ a gift from Russia”. The next day, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry released a statement about the increased “provocative attacks” of some Russian lawmakers that “cause serious damage” to the allied relations of the two states.
On December 20, another State Duma deputy, Yevgeny Fyodorov, spoke for the restoration of a unified state of Russia and Kazakhstan. On December 23, the Kazakh Foreign Minister, Mukhtar Tleuberdi, said that the MPs’ statements do not reflect the official position of Russia.
At the same time, a rally took place outside the Russian Consulate General in Almaty on December 26; protesters dubbed those statements a sign of aggression.
Abolition of the death penalty
On December 23, MPs ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Under the protocol, countries are committed to taking all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty. However, Kazakhstan reserves the right to apply the death penalty in wartime.
According to experts, this protocol does not comply with the provisions of Kazakhstan’s national legislation. At the same time, experts argue that the signing of the protocol is an important step towards humanism-inclined positive changes.
On December 17, 2003, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a decree introducing a moratorium on the execution of the death penalty. Despite a moratorium, the country’s Criminal Code still provided for the death penalty.
On December 25, Yerlan Kiyasov signed another decree prohibiting audio, photo, and video recording in healthcare institutions, ambulances, as well as in quarantine rooms.
The Health Ministry says the decision will guarantee patients’ right to confidentiality. On the other hand, independent observers assert that the recording ban is envisioned to hide the shortcomings of the health care system, particularly evident with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
On December 4, the CEC of Kazakhstan prohibited public observers to broadcast live from polling stations. It has also enforced significant limitations, restricting the presence of observers in the electoral process. Experts believe the Kazakh authorities are assembling mass vote-rigging at the upcoming parliamentary elections.
This month, there has been a steady decline across Kyrgyzstan in the number of infected with the coronavirus. Whilst the country reported over 450 new COVID-19 cases daily in November, this figure had dropped to 160 by late December.
There was a gradual lifting of quarantine rules during this month. For instance, on December 1 in the cities of Bishkek and Osh, Kyrgyz authorities permitted the work of cinemas, food courts, and computer clubs. On December 4, the Kyrgyz government decided to open its borders for foreign citizens traveling by air. Also, schools in the capital will reopen on January 15.
On December 8, the Health Ministry reported a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases among school-age children. It was stated that the increase is not associated with the reopening of schools.
As of December 31, Kyrgyzstan reports a total of 81,034 coronavirus cases and 1,093 deaths since the onset of the pandemic. 1,165 patients are hospital-treated. Kyrgyzstan includes community-acquired pneumonia cases in official COVID-19 data.
Getting ready for the tenuous epidemiological situation
- Two infectious diseases hospitals, built of pre-fabricated structures, had been opened on December 29 in Bishkek. On December 22, a similar hospital was put into operation in the Batken region. On November 5, the government of Uzbekistan sent humanitarian aid to Kyrgyzstan in the form of four hundred containers intended for the construction of hospitals.
- On December 24, the World Health Organization approved the application of the Kyrgyz Health Ministry for over one million doses of coronavirus vaccine. Medical institutions will be able to vaccinate more than 20 percent of the country’s population.
On December 5, U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Donald Lu made a statement on corruption crimes of the ex-deputy head of the customs service Raimbek Matraimov.
Donald Lu announced that the U.S. government stands ready to support Kyrgyzstan in the fight against organized crime and corruption. On December 7, the Kyrgyz Ministry of Foreign Affairs asserted that the statement of the U.S. ambassador involves an element of interference in the country’s internal affairs.
Notwithstanding the Ministry’s note, on December 9 The U.S. Department of Treasury has included Raimbek Matraimov on the so-called “Magnitsky list” and designated him for sanctions on corruption grounds. Experts say the imposed sanctions would have a negative impact on the financial situation of Matraimov.
On October 20, the former customs official filed a petition for concluding a pre-trial immunity agreement and volunteered to pay compensation for 2 billion soms. On December 24, the head of the National Security Committee, Kamchybek Tashiev, said that Raimbek Matraimov had made full reparation to the state by transferring most of the amount in cash.
From 6 to 8 December, Acting President of the Kyrgyz Republic Talant Mamytov paid a working visit to the Russian capital.
During the visit, Mamytov held a number of bilateral meetings, including with the Chairman of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin. “When it comes to integration, lawmakers of certain countries drift towards Western countries, but turn to Russia once things get tough,” Volodin said.
Experts believe these words are warning to the Kyrgyz side. “The Kyrgyz authorities, continuously seeking assistance, cast doubts on the country’s sovereignty,” the experts added.
On December 7, citizens of Kyrgyzstan held a peaceful march outside of the State Duma building against the proposed changes to the constitution. Protesters held up posters that say “illegitimate parliament”.
Following the working visit, the Kyrgyz side requested to consider the possibility of increasing the number of scheduled air flights and train departures.
On December 8, Acting Prime Minister Artem Novikov arrived in Fergana to participate in the third Council meeting of Plenipotentiaries of the Governments of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
At the meeting, the parties discussed cross-boundary issues, trade and economic cooperation, and the transport industry development. As part of the formerly signed agreement, it was decided to create a Kyrgyz-Uzbek investment fund with an authorized capital of 50 million US dollars.
Following the meeting, the two sides have adopted a roadmap to expand and deepen bilateral cooperation.
Sadyr Japarov, released from custody amidst recent political events, is considered the undisputed favorite to win the election race. Sadyr Japarov has initiated the proposed draft of a new constitution, which substantially broadens the powers of the president.
According to experts, the main rivals of Sadyr Japarov in the election race are the political party leaders, Kanat Isaev and Adakhan Madumarov. On December 17, on the air of the country’s main TV channel, the latter revealed that he has been threatened by unknown persons.
Early presidential elections will be held on January 10, 2021.
Bishkek has seen four peaceful marches over December with the participation of civic activists and political figures.
The protests were fueled by the adoption of a law that envisions conducting a referendum. The referendum is scheduled to determine the governance system.
According to experts, the law was adopted with blatant violations of the country’s current constitution. For instance, the law had not been published for a full-fledged public review. Moreover, in view of the expiry of its legal term, the current convocation of parliament was not authorized to take extraordinary measures such as constitutional reform.
A constitutional referendum is proposed to be held on the day of the presidential election.
On December 15, residents of the Ak-Zhar village, located near the capital, staged a protest against the recurring power cuts. Having blocked the road, the protesters burned car tires.
On December 16, Deputy Prime Minister Ravshan Sabirov said that the volume of water in the Toktogul reservoir had dropped to a critical level. Sabirov argues there is a risk of automatic blackouts in Kyrgyzstan.
In this regard, the Kyrgyz authorities were compelled to import electricity from neighboring Kazakhstan. However, due to internal electricity shortages, Kazakhstan is unable to supply the electricity in the amounts requested.
Artyom Novikov contends that the risen electricity consumption during the heat deficit period can lead to electricity grid failures. As a result, the national energy holding called on the country’s population to reduce the volume of electricity consumption by switching to gas and coal.
The active use of coal translates to large-scale emissions of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. According to the World Air Quality Index, Bishkek currently ranks second in the world in terms of air pollution.
As of the evening of December 31, 2020, Tajikistan reports zero new COVID-19 cases.
The Health Ministry reported a total of 13,296 coronavirus cases in the country between April 30 to December 31, with 12,894 cured, making 97% of the infected. The death toll hit 90.
The Minister said that as of January 1, 2021, 312 citizens of Tajikistan with mild coronavirus symptoms continue to be treated at home. According to the minister, the coronavirus may decline in 2021 and might end in the summer. The only premise necessary to have the “best case” scenario is to attain the manageability of the pandemic.
The Minister also asserted that the counter infection measures undertaken by the republican headquarters, including the ban on corporate events, public events, and scheduled flights, can contribute to reducing the COVID-19 numbers.
Government working groups hold awareness-raising sessions throughout the country informing people on personal and public hygiene, dietary rules, and a healthy lifestyle. In his end-of-year broadcast to the nation on 31 December 2020, President Emomali Rahmon said that the coronavirus had almost been stalled in Tajikistan.
Members of the Government of Tajikistan took an oath of allegiance to the President
The solemn Members of the Government swearing-in ceremony led by Prime Minister Kohir Rasulzoda was held on December 15 at the “Palace of Nations”.
The ceremony was held in accordance with Article 73 of the Constitution of Tajikistan and Article 8 of the Constitutional Law of Tajikistan “On the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan”, whereby members of the government, after being appointed by the president and approved at a meeting of the upper and lower chambers of parliament, take the oath to the head of state.
Emomali Rahmon called on members of the government to serve the people and the Motherland honestly and with due diligence.
The new government in Tajikistan was formed on November 4 and approved by the parliament on December 10.
The arrest of an opposition politician
The Gissar city court ruled on the two-month arrest of the deputy chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan (SDPT) Makhmurod Odinaev.
On December 5, the Prosecutor General’s Office announced that the deputy head of the SDPT Makhmurod Odinaev was detained on charges of hooliganism in the capital’s Sino district.
Rakhmatillo Zoyirov, head of the SDPT, said that the arrested politician currently does not have an attorney. It is not known whether the rights of the oppositionist were respected during the trial. According to Zoyirov, his deputy was detained by a group of 15 police and state security officers.
The opposition politician is accused of hooliganism, but his associates believe that the case is politically motivated
Emomali Rahmon commuted punishment for inciting ethnic and religious hatred
President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon signed several Acts on December 17, his press service reported.
In particular, the President adopted the Law on Amendments to the Criminal Code, the Code of Administrative Offenses, and the Tax Code.
Amendments to the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code are intended at stepping up efforts to combat crime and administrative offenses related to inciting ethnic, parochial, and religious hatred.
Earlier on October 14, the lower house of the Tajik Parliament had supported the proposed amendments to the country’s Administrative Offenses Code, providing for the humanization of the laws.
The amendments provide imposition of administrative penalties for actions inciting national, racial, parochial, or religious hatred, or discord, the humiliation of national dignity, as well as advocating exclusivity of citizens based on their religion, nationality, racial or parochial affiliations.
If these acts are committed publicly or with the use of media, the fine will amount from 50 to 100 base coefficients (1 coefficient – 58 somoni) or administrative arrest for a period of 5 to 10 days. Previously for such acts citizens were looking at up to 5 years in prison.
If the persons held administratively liable for the above-mentioned acts, within a year after receiving the punishment are to re-offend, they will be brought to criminal responsibility incurring 2 to 5 years in prison.
Abdullo’s visit to Tajikistan
On December 21-22, the chairman of the Supreme Council of Afghanistan, Abdullo Abdullo, paid a business visit to Tajikistan. On December 21, Abdullo held talks with the speaker of the lower house of the Tajik parliament Mahmadtoir Zokirzoda, the prime minister of the country Kohir Rasulzoda and the head of the Tajik foreign ministry Sirojiddin Mukhriddin. On December 22, Abdullo met with the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon.
Rahmon and Abdullo discussed the prospects for cooperation between the two countries, the President’s press service reported.
The meeting took place on December 22 in the capital’s Palace of the Nation. As in the two days of meetings between Dr. Abdullo and representatives of Tajikistan, the Tajik leader had expressed support for the inter-Afghan peace talks.
Emomali Rahmon spoke of his hope that their results will positively impact both Afghanistan and other states of the region.
Emomali Rahmon and Abdullo Abdullo also addressed security issues, examining the activities of various extremist groups. They exchanged views on the actions of terrorist groups that constitute a threat to the stability of Afghanistan and the states of the region and agreed to advance the joint struggle against terrorism in the region.
The parties also deliberated about the current state and prospects for the development of Dushanbe-Kabul relations.
Bolstering cooperation in transport and trade, as well as in medicine, science, culture, and education was considered a top priority.
The President of Tajikistan launched the work of several industrial enterprises
On December 24, President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon in Dushanbe has launched the work of several enterprises established as part of the country’s industrialization plan. Among the new enterprises are companies producing laminate, ice cream, cottonseed oil, flour and confectionery products, cotton processing, processing of decorative and ornamental stones, granite, and marble.
Dozens of health workers fall ill every day in Turkmenistan’s hospitals. According to Radio Azatlyk correspondents in the country, all experience similar symptoms, including fever, cough, shortness of breath. Many test positive for COVID-19. The country’s leadership still denies COVID-19 cases in the country. The “coronavirus-free” country bans mass gatherings and public holidays, limits movement, and obliges mask regime.
Meanwhile, Turkmen authorities put certain restrictions on celebrations involving large groups of people. In Lebap velayat, the number of people invited to private events at home should not exceed 20 persons. At the commemoration, it is barred to use more than 3 cauldrons for preparing traditional food. 10 people are allowed into the room for a short time. One of the local elders monitors the number of visitors. A fine of 2,000 manats ($ 571.4 at the state rate) is imposed for violating the requirements.
Turkmenistan opens 3 of 4 checkpoints on the border with Iran
After nine months of closure due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Lutfabad customs terminal, located on the Iranian-Turkmenistan border, has reopened, the Iranian Financial Tribune reported on December 1.
10 transit trucks are allowed to leave Iran for Turkmenistan on daily basis via Lutfabad and then to other destinations.
Turkmenistan closed the border with Iran in February. After that, the Iranian media have repeatedly reported on the resumption of the checkpoint. The latter opened for a short time and then stopped working again. For instance, Turkmenistan for three days opened the Sarakhs border checkpoint in September for trucks.
Turkmenistan launched its own messenger and e-mail service
For now, only Turkmen residents can use the messenger. It is described by its developers as the application available for subscribers of Altyn Asyr mobile phone operator, and in the reviews, many users complain that one cannot register without a Turkmen number.
Within 24 hours of posting in the app store, users wrote 36 reviews and rated the app at 2.7 points out of 5.
President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov had been apprised of the local messenger in mid-November. At that time, the name of the application was unknown. In its reports a month earlier, the Turkmenportal linked it to the TM Messenger program.
New rules for supermarket queues
Since December 9, the police in Ashgabat began to move the lines to grocery stores several hundred meters away from the entrance and permit only five people to shop at one time.
According to Turkmenistan’s Chronicle correspondents, police officers and plain-clothed men in civilian clothes with a radio set are on duty at state grocery stores since 5 am and drive away people, forbidding them from queueing up.
They forbid buyers to approach the store closer than 300 meters and advise them to wait at the entrances of houses around before the trade starts, i.e., 7 am.
Food shortages, long lines, and fights over groceries are also observed in the country’s regions. According to Turkmen news, eight boxes of chicken legs were brought to the Green Bazaar in Mary on December 17. Regional residents, who arrived in the city on three buses, learned about this in advance. City dwellers turned out to be unhappy with that, asserting that the products were brought only for them.
Meanwhile, state television channels began broadcasting traditional pre-New Year footages on the abundance of food in the markets, which President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov demands to provide.
Turkmenistan marks the 25th anniversary of neutrality
On December 12, Turkmenistan celebrated the 25th anniversary of neutrality. In the morning, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, members of the government, heads of law enforcement agencies, deputies of the Mejlis, and other officials laid flowers at the Monument of Neutrality.
After that, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry building hosted a “Policy of neutrality and its importance in ensuring international peace, security and sustainable development” conference with the head of state, officials, diplomats, and representatives of international organizations in attendance.
The celebrations concluded with a concert and fireworks at the Monument of Neutrality.
Death of the 2002 coup attempt convict
The 64-year-old former head of the Dashoguz velayat Yazgeldy Gundogdyev died in the maximum-security penal colony AH-K / 6 in Turkmenistan on December 28, “Gundogar” reports with reference to law enforcement sources. He was convicted of attempted coup d’etat on November 25, 2002. The causes of the former high-ranking official’s death are still unknown.
Gundogdyev is the former head of the international department of Turkmenistan’s presidential administration, chief adviser to Boris Shikhmuradov when he was deputy prime minister and hyakim of the Dagoshuz velayat.
He was arrested and charged with complicity in an attempt to overthrow Saparmurat Niyazov. While in the pre-trial detention center, he was tortured, after which he incriminated himself and made a confession that was broadcasted on the state TV of Turkmenistan on December 18, 2002.
On January 21, 2003, the Ashgabat city court sentenced Gundogdyev to 25 years imprisonment with 5 years in prison and the rest of the term in a strict regime colony. Since then, nothing has been known about him. “Prove They Are Alive!” International Campaign added Yazgeldy Gundogdyev to the list of those who disappeared in Turkmen prisons.
An attempt to assassinate Saparmurat Niyazov in Turkmenistan was revealed on November 25, 2002. According to the prosecutor’s office, the conspirators planned to kill Niyazov by firing at his motorcade, seize power and put Boris Shikhmuradov, a former foreign minister and one of the president’s opponents, in the country’s leadership. About 100 people were detained on supposed involvement in the alleged assassination attempt, and more than 50 were sent to prison.
A spontaneous rally of women in the south of Turkmenistan
About 50 women staged a spontaneous protest outside the building of the khyakimlik in Mary (a city in the south of Turkmenistan), Azatlyk radio reports.
The women gathered outside the administrative building on December 21. They intended to complain to the local authorities about the interruptions in the supply of bread and flour. Rations that should have arrived six months ago are being distributed in rural state-owned shops only now. In efforts to somehow feed their children, local residents are compelled to go to the cities for bread.
Also, the protesters claimed drinking water supply limits. Villagers with no running water at their own expense order water in cisterns twice a month. Those who are unable to pay for water carriers are left without water. The cost of one tank car is 90 manats or $ 25.7 at the rate of the Central Bank of Turkmenistan and cash payments only. Owing to the lack of cash at ATMs, payment for water delivery is also not available to everyone, the source says.
Political rallies are rare for Turkmenistan; any political activity unauthorized by the government is harshly suppressed. Periodically, nonetheless, the country sees local protests driven by social reasons. These protests are usually spontaneous and reflect the growing discontent of the population. As noted by Turkmen.news, such rallies at times have positive outcomes as officials seek to somewhat fulfill the demands of the protesters so that the higher leadership won’t hear about the riots.
Turkmen car owners caught up with a ban on black closure panels
Not only black cars but white cars with black closure panels are too now banned in Turkmenistan. These cars will not pass inspections at State Motor Vehicle Inspectorate, Turkmen.news reports.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that President Berdimuhamedov personally ordered the ban on black front grilles, bumper parts, and other details. The head of the Interior Ministry Mammetkhan Chakyev is responsible for enforcing the order.
Even if the black part was manufacturer-installed and cannot be repainted technically, the car will still not pass a vehicle inspection.
For several years now, cars of black and other dark colors have been tacitly banned in Turkmenistan. No document provides for the implicit prohibition; the official media do not raise the issue. Among other unofficial restrictions imposed on motorists in Turkmenistan is pressure on driving women and on provincials trying to enter Ashgabat.
According to the Ministry of Health of Uzbekistan, the number of new COVID-19 cases appear to have stabilized in the country. On December 30, the republican commission permitted New Year celebrations.
In the Spring semester, Uzbekistan also plans to resume some classes in educational institutions.
As of December 31, Uzbekistan reports a total of 77,126 coronavirus cases in the country. The death toll reached 612. 1503 patients are hospital-treated. The Health Ministry says they detach pneumonia data from tallying COVID-19 numbers.
On December 4, the Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov handed over samples of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine to Uzbekistan.
The vaccine samples were shipped in support of industrial production reconvening in Uzbekistan. On December 21, Russia and Uzbekistan signed an agreement to supply one million doses of Sputnik V vaccine for labor migrants.
On December 10, Uzbekistan began the third phase of clinical trials of a Chinese-manufactured coronavirus vaccine. in case of effective testing, the country will be able to acquire the vaccine at the lowest price.
The opening of the Tashkent Metallurgical Plant built at a cost of $ 420 million took place on December 4.
The plant activities will supply the domestic market. The plant will annually produce up to 500 thousand tons of metallurgical products. President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev said that the new plant will be a driving force of the national industry.
TMZ will also become one of the largest industrial estates in the world technology-wise. Moreover, the production processes will be environmentally sound.
Throughout the month, Uzbek residents have been whining over an unreliable supply of gas and electricity. In protest, residents of certain districts were forced to set up roadblocks.
Local authorities say higher gas consumption in cold weather precedes a pressure loss of natural gas in pipelines. That explains provisional gas supply limitations introduced on December 7 at gas stations in Tashkent. On December 16, Shavkat Mirziyoyev ordered to minimize gas exports.
The authorities also report that residents employ improvised gas distribution units, which violates gas exploitation rules. A gas leak on December 9 has killed six people in Karakalpakstan; two of them were minors.
The media remind that Uzbekistan is experiencing power and gas cuts for several years already.
On December 11, the heads of the Eurasian Economic Union Member States have conferred on the Republic of Uzbekistan the status of a non-member observer state in the EEU.
In recent years, Uzbekistan is actively growing its trade and economic cooperation with the EEU countries. Uzbekistan’s current foreign trade share with the EEU stands at 30%, whereas the volume of its agricultural exports exceeds 75%.
In July 2020, Uzbekistan resumed talks on joining the World Trade Organization. Also, on November 30, Uzbekistan has attained the status of a beneficiary in the European Union’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP +).
Uzbekistan – India talks
An online meeting of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Indian President Narendra Modi was held on December 11.
At the summit, the discussion centered on issues related to transport infrastructure, joint investment projects, and cooperation through inter-parliamentary activities.
Following the summit, the parties signed several bilateral cooperation documents and have set a target to increase the volume of trade between Uzbekistan and India.
Unlawful actions of State bodies
On December 14, the Fergana Regional Court reviewed the case of riots in the Sokh district.
At the court hearings, the public learned that law enforcement officers repeatedly assaulted the defendants while in police custody.
On May 31, 2020, fighting broke out in the Batken region, along the Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan border, between villagers in the Kyrgyz settlement of Chechme and the Uzbek enclave of Sokh. The violence resulted in houses burned and civilians hurt.
To resolve the conflict, the Fergana region administration, headed by the khokim Shukhrat Ganiev, traveled to the scene of the unrest. Amidst the on-site awareness-raising initiatives, locals actively resisted law enforcement officials. After that, the prosecutor’s office of the Fergana region instituted criminal proceedings against rioters.
On June 1, during the visit of the Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov, the Sokh residents had condemned the work of Shukhrat Ganiev. Residents reported being threatened by local authorities. According to some sources, the hearing of cases involving the accused was held behind closed doors.
On December 15, MPs adopted a bill that imposes administrative and criminal liability for disseminating erroneous information in the media and the Internet.
According to the deputies, this draft law guarantees unimpeded journalistic activity. It also ostensibly protects the conscience of children and youth from the negative influence of false information.
On December 21, the international non-governmental organization “Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)” stated that this bill runs counter to democratic principles of guaranteeing freedom of the press.
Recall that last month, state media regulator Agency for Information and Mass Communications reminded media outlets of the major legal implications of publishing unverified data.
On December 18, the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev chaired an online meeting of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Heads of State Council.
The summit was attended by the presidents of Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia, Moldova, and five Central Asian states. The Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan was unable to take part in the event due to unforeseen circumstances.
At the meeting, the parties held a constructive exchange of views on topical issues of international and regional importance, including cooperation of the Member States in the political, trade and economic, social, and cultural domains, alongside the joint efforts in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to media reports, the recent military conflict between Yerevan and Baku in Nagorno-Karabakh was the centerpiece of the negotiations.
Following the meeting, the Concept for further CIS development has been approved by the participants. The heads of state have also adopted several other documents intended to further deepen multifaceted cooperation between the CIS member states, including in the military, cultural and humanitarian domains, in the areas of information security and security at the external borders of the Commonwealth.
Meeting of the SEEC
An online meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council (SEEC) was held on December 11.
It was attended by the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Armenia, as well as of Moldova, and Cuba. The first president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and the chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission, Mikhail Myasnikovich, were also in attendance.
The Supreme Council has granted Uzbekistan and Cuba the status of non-member observer state in the EEU. The status implies that the observer state representatives can, upon invitation, attend the meetings of the Union bodies without the right to participate in decision-making.
The EEU heads of state approved the Strategic Directions for the Development of Eurasian Economic Integration until 2025. The document provides for the enhancement of economic cooperation with non-member states and integration associations.
The heads of state decided to ensure the completion of the first phase towards the creation of a common gas market in the Union, while also adopting a “roadmap” to harmonize the legislation of EEU member states in the oil sector.
Various resolutions were forwarded following the meeting.
On December 2, Russian President Vladimir Putin chaired an online session of the Collective Security Council (CSC) of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
The event was attended by the presidents of Armenia, Belarus, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.
The heads of state deliberated on international security concerns and measures to further boost the CSTO’s efficiency, as well as promote and strengthen inter-parliamentary cooperation of the CSTO member states.
The Council adopted the Declaration of the Collective Security Council and a Statement on shaping just and sustainable world order.
The Heads of State signed an Agreement on joint logistic and medical support of the Troops and amended the Agreement on Peacekeeping Activities. The changes regulate the participation of the CSTO Collective Peacekeeping Forces in UN operations through an agreement with the coordinating state, CSTO member state that is designated by the Collective Security Council.
Following the session, the Council approved the Plan for the Development of Military Cooperation of the CSTO Member States for 2021-2025, and a new Drug Strategy for the CSTO Member States for 2021-2025.
This material has been prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial board or donor.