February 2021 in Central Asia will be remembered for the commenced vaccination against coronavirus, active intraregional visits, arrests, some protests, and a relatively stable epidemiological situation. The analytical platform CABAR.asia presents a brief overview of the most significant events in the region over the past month.
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General epidemiological situation
In February, Kazakhstan noted a stabilization of the situation with respect to the incidence of coronavirus, in comparison to a slight increase in January. On February 28, 622 new cases of coronavirus infection were registered in Kazakhstan . This is 169 cases less than in the previous day (February 27), and 184 cases less than on February 26. In total, 213,431 cases were confirmed in the country, 196,889 people had recovered.
As of March 1, Nur-Sultan, Akmola, West Kazakhstan, Kostanay, Pavlodar regions are located in the “yellow” zone. All other regions are in the green zone. There is not a single area in the “red” zone. Nur-Sultan got into the “red” zone only the day before, on February 28. Previously, it was in the “yellow” zone, to which it transferred again on March 1.
The chief state sanitary doctor of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Yerlan Kiyasov, said that the Ministry of Health does not predict a repeat of last year’s situation with the spread of coronavirus in Kazakhstan, where, according to the pessimistic development of the scenario, the possible peak of incidence will fall on the end of March – beginning of April. However, based on the current situation, it can be assumed that the country will pass this peak, which was designated earlier.
The Karaganda pharmaceutical complex has completed the registration procedure for the Sputnik V vaccine.
On February 13, a conclusion was received from the expert organization of the Ministry of Health of Kazakhstan on the safety, quality, and effectiveness of the vaccine. An application for a registration certificate has been sent to the Committee for Medical and Pharmaceutical Control of the Ministry of Health of Kazakhstan.
The decision to produce a vaccine in Kazakhstan was made after visits and research of Kazakh pharmaceutical enterprises by the commission of the Ministry of Health of Kazakhstan and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). The KFK site turned out to be the most prepared to produce a finished form of a vaccine from a Russian substance.
More than 20 thousand Kazakhstanis were vaccinated with the first component of the COVID-19 vaccine. On February 23, the delivery of the second batch of vaccine in the amount of 93 thousand doses, produced on the basis of the Karaganda pharmaceutical complex, began. With this vaccine, it is planned to complete the vaccination of health workers and begin vaccination of teachers. The second stage of vaccination will cover teachers and law enforcement officers. The residents of the capital will begin vaccination process starting from May.
Border and flights
Since February 2021, the procedure for crossing the border of Kazakhstan has been updated .
IAC updated the procedure for crossing the border of the Republic of Kazakhstan for the period of quarantine restrictions. Changes have been made to the current procedure. By the decision of the chief state sanitary doctor, a PCR certificate with a negative COVID-19 result is required for all persons entering the Republic of Kazakhstan. In accordance with the procedure for crossing the border, from February 4, it is allowed to travel abroad no more than 1 time in 30 days. A citizen of Kazakhstan can leave for any purpose in foreign countries, but the next departure will be possible only after 30 days from the date of return to Kazakhstan.
From February 24, Kazakhstan will open international flights from Turkestan to Istanbul. The frequency will be four flights per week for Kazakhstani airlines (Air Astana and SCAT).
It is also allowed to increase the number of flights to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine on the following routes: Almaty – Tashkent – Almaty: from four to eight flights per week (two flights of Air Astana and Uzbekistan Airways are added); Almaty – Bishkek – Almaty: from three to five flights per week (two Air Astana flights are added); Almaty – Kiev – Almaty: from one to two flights per week (one Air Astana flight is added).
12 citizens of Kazakhstan returned to their homeland from Syria
In early February, the National Security Committee of Kazakhstan, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan and with the support of the United States and other international partners, carried out an operation to return a group of Kazakh citizens from Syria to their homeland.
The group consists of 4 men, 1 woman and 7 children, including 2 orphans. In accordance with national legislation and international obligations, persons involved in terrorist activities will be prosecuted. Orphans are transferred to the care of close relatives and the state will provide them with all the necessary assistance. The woman and children will be included in the rehabilitation and resocialization programs.
The operation to repatriate citizens from zones of terrorist activity, sanctioned by the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, was a continuation of Operation Zhusan, launched at the initiative of the first president, Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Aviation incident with the planes of Qazaq Air
Two aviation incidents with the planes of Qazaq Air took place in Kazakhstan.
On February 12, a plane of Qazaq Air interrupted its flight on the Nursultan – Shymkent route due to a broken front landing gear tire. The run was 700 meters. The aircraft was towed to the parking lot. On February 13, when inspecting an aircraft operating a regular flight on the Nursultan – Almaty route, destruction of both tires of the right landing gear was found. All passengers of the plane were evacuated, no injuries were reported.
Tokayev has banned the sale of land to foreigners.
President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered to urgently legalize a ban on the sale and lease of agricultural land to foreigners in the country. He stressed that he had made concrete decisions on this issue and instructed to prohibit the sale and lease of agricultural land to foreigners and foreign legal entities. This also applies to legal entities with foreign shares.
In 2016, mass protests swept across Kazakhstan against resonant amendments to land legislation, which allowed foreign citizens and legal entities to lease agricultural land for 25 years. In addition, the amendments provided for the possibility of buying out agricultural land from the state into private ownership. However, the authorities already then emphasized that there was no talk of selling land to foreigners in the document.
Rampant opposition to land reform has forced then-President Nursultan Nazarbayev to declare a moratorium on these amendments, which expires at the end of this year.
Petition against the development of Bozjyra
Kazakhstan has launched an online petition in defense of the Bozjyra (Boszhira) natural boundaries in the Mangistau region, where it is planned to build a VIP hotel.
Its authors note that the Bozjyra tract is a visiting card not only of Mangistau, but of the whole Kazakhstan, however, it is still not part of the specially protected territories of republican significance.
The Bozjyra tract belongs to the Karakiya district of the Mangistau region and is located 300 kilometers away from the regional center – Aktau. The scandal around this place erupted in November 2020 after reports that construction equipment had arrived there.
Turkish businessman Fettah Taminci is going to finance the project
At public hearings, which took place on February 5 in the village of Kuryk in the Mangistau region, the hotel’s sketches were presented by TETHYS AKTAU IV. Members of the public again sharply criticized this project.
Kazakhstan decided to abandon the creation of its satellite.
The Ministry of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry of Kazakhstan has decided to stop working on the project to create a new telecommunications spacecraft “KazSat-2R”.
The project was abandoned “in favor of innovative solutions, including those related to satellite constellations of a new generation.” This will save billions of tenge of budgetary funds, the message says.
As of today, the Kazakh space system KazSat consists of two communication satellites – KazSat-2 and KazSat-3. Earlier, Kazakhstan planned to create and launch the KazSat-2Р satellite by 2023 for the planned replacement of the KazSat-2 apparatus. Former Minister of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry Askar Zhumagaliyev announced in January 2020 that the republic will spend 40 billion tenge (almost 100 million USD) on the creation of KazSat-2R.
Protests in cities of Kazakhstan
On Sunday, at least 4 cities of Kazakhstan were holding rallies for the release of political prisoners, socio-political reforms, and refusal to sell land to foreigners. Permission to hold a protest was given only in Uralsk, in other cities they were held in an unauthorized manner. In Almaty and the capital, the police blocked several dozen people. In Almaty and Aktobe, security officials detained more than 50 people.
The initiative group for the creation of the “Democratic Party” headed by Zhanbolat Mamai and the “Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan” with the opposition politician abroad Mukhtar Ablyazov called for rallies on February 28 (DCK was recognized as an extremist by court in Kazakhstan, but a peaceful opposition movement – by the European Parliament). Both among the demands, in particular, indicated the need for land reform, and spoke out against the sale of land to foreigners.
In the resolution of the European Parliament on human rights in Kazakhstan adopted on February 11, 2021, the deputies noted that all politically motivated cases should be stopped in Kazakhstan , as well as “all forms of arbitrary detention, repression and persecution” should be put to an end.
General epidemiological situation
In February, 60 to 80 new cases of coronavirus infection were registered in Kyrgyzstan every day, considering community-acquired pneumonia. In total, during the entire pandemic, 86,251 cases of coronavirus infection were detected in the country. As of March 1, 353 patients are being treated in hospitals of Kyrgyzstan for the consequences of the coronavirus, of which 16 are in critical condition. In addition, another 283 patients are treated on an outpatient basis.
The Department of Medicines and Medical Devices under the Ministry of Health and Social Development of the Kyrgyz Republic issued a registration certificate for the Sputnik V vaccine for the prevention of coronavirus infection.
Vaccination in Kyrgyzstan will take place in three stages. First of all, medical workers and personnel of health care organizations, as well as employees of services who are at high risk due to the nature of their work and who provide life support services, will be vaccinated.
In addition to the Russian vaccine, Kyrgyzstan will receive 504,000 doses of the British vaccine AstraZeneca. Vaccines will be provided by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) under the COVAX program.
GAVI began delivery of AstraZeneca back in early February 2021. Storage conditions for the vaccine from AstraZeneca are 2 – 8 ° C (conditions of a conventional refrigerator). The vaccine has a shelf life of six months.
The new prime minister
On February 3, the President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov signed a decree appointing Ulukbek Maripov as the Prime Minister of the republic. His candidacy was unanimously approved by the parliament of the republic. Maripov is 40 years old, previously he served as head of the Auditing Chamber.
The new prime minister of Kyrgyzstan was born in August 1979 in the Nookat district of the Osh region of the republic. His professional career began in 2001, when Maripov came to work as a specialist in the Ministry of Finance. Subsequently, he worked in the Ministry of Emergency Situations, as well as in the apparatuses of the government and parliament. In 2015-2016, he was the first deputy head of the presidential administration. For the last five years, he served as chairman of the Auditing Chamber of Kyrgyzstan.
Former Mufti Maksatbek Toktomushev was detained in Bishkek.
The former mufti Maksatbek Toktomushev was detained in Bishkek on February 10. According to the investigation, the detainee was involved in the case of giving a bribe on an especially large scale, according to which the chief accountant of the SAMK (Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan) was detained the day before.
Toktomushev is also charged with financial violations related to the use of money that the pilgrims donated to the SAMK for the Hajj. Earlier, the State Committee for National Security reported that the leadership of the muftiat illegally used these funds, providing large loans to private financial institutions (over 100 million KGS / 1 million USD) and receiving monthly interest payments.
Currently, the detainee is in the temporary detention facility of the State Committee for National Security. On February 11, a rally in support of the former mufti was held near the building of the special service. About 20 people demanded to release him. The court decided to release Toktomushev under the written pledge not to leave the country.
Later, the ex-mufti posted a video message on social networks, in which he called the accusations against the muftiat a lie.
Maksatbek Toktomushev held the post of mufti since 2014. He submitted his resignation the day before amid the scandal with the detention of the chief accountant of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan. According to the State Committee for National Security, the leadership of the muftiat illegally used the money contributed by the pilgrims for the Hajj, providing large loans to private financial institutions (over 100 million KGS / 1 million USD) and receiving monthly interest payments.
After the identification of these financial transactions, the management of the SAMK began to strongly offer the State Committee for National Security employees a bribe in the amount of 100 thousand USD for concealing these facts and terminating further investigation, the report said.
On February 9, 2021, a case was opened under part 3 of Article 328 of the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic (“Giving a bribe on an especially large scale”) and on the same day the chief accountant of the SAMK was detained in the act of giving a bribe to the State Committee for National Security employees.
Sooronbay Jeenbekov returned to Kyrgyzstan, where they want to deprive him of the status of ex-president.
Former President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Jeenbekov returned to the republic on February 15 after performing a small hajj. Sooronbay Jeenbekov and his wife went to Mecca via Istanbul on February 2. It was reported that he would arrive in Bishkek in 10 days.
Earlier it became known that the ex-president was summoned to the Pervomaisky District Court of Bishkek to testify in the case of former Deputy Prime Minister Duishenbek Zilaliyev. Jeenbekov will have to explain the origin of the 1 million USD in Zilaliev’s safe deposit box, which was allegedly intended for his election campaign.
Jeenbekov resigned as president on October 15 last year. This decision was preceded by riots in Bishkek that began after the parliamentary elections. At the end of January, a group of citizens who suffered during the riots demanded to punish the former president, who, according to them, ordered the use of weapons against peaceful demonstrators. They submitted the corresponding statement to the Prosecutor General’s Office, and they, in turn, sent it to the State Committee for National Security and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
At present, it is not possible to bring Jeenbekov to justice, since after his resignation he received the status of ex-president. Under the law, a person endowed with such a status cannot be held criminally liable for acts or omissions committed by him during his presidency, as well as he cannot be detained, arrested, searched, or interrogated.
However, according to Deutsche Welle, the republic has already begun to collect signatures for the deprivation of Sooronbay Jeenbekov and the ex-president, who headed the country during the transition period, Roza Otunbayeva. The action was initiated by a local blogger, however, from the material it follows that this may be beneficial to the new leadership of the republic.
Arrest of Raimbek Matraimov
On February 18, former deputy chairman of the Kyrgyz Customs Service, Raiymbek Matraimov, was detained by officers of the State Committee for National Security on suspicion of laundering criminal earnings.
Matraimov was placed in the State Committee for National Security pre-trial detention center for a period of two months. During the consideration of the measure of restraint, an action of supporters of Matraimov was held near the court building. They declared the innocence of the former deputy head of the State Customs Service and demanded his release. Another large-scale rally of Matraimov’s supporters took place in the south of the country, in the Kara-Suu district of the Osh region.
This is already the second detention of a former customs officer. In the first case, he was sentenced to a fine. Earlier on February 11, the Pervomaisky court of Bishkek found the former deputy head of the Kyrgyz customs service, Raiymbek Matraimov, guilty under the article “Corruption” and sentenced him to a fine of 260 thousand KGS (3 thousand USD). Such a punishment was requested by the prosecutor for Raiymbek Matraimov. He considered that it was enough, since Matraimov admitted his guilt and paid all the damage in the amount of 2 billion KGS (24 million USD).
It should be noted that the sanction of Article 319 of the Criminal Code of Kyrgyzstan (“Corruption”) provides only for imprisonment (the term depends on the severity of the crime). The court’s verdict on the fine aroused the indignation of some part of the country’s public, and on February 14, representatives of civil society went to a peaceful rally and demanded the arrest of Matraimov. In response to the indignation of the people, the President of the country Sadyr Japarov said that the investigation against Matraimov had not yet been completed.
On February 24, it became known that Raiymbek Matraimov was in the hospital. According to preliminary data, he was hospitalized today, he complains of blood pressure.
On February 28, a rally was held against the NGO and radio Azattyk, and at the same time in support of the Matraimov clan. Earlier, Raiymbek Matraimov, ex-deputy chairman of customs, a person involved in the journalistic investigations of Azattyk, Kloop, OCCRP, pleaded guilty to corruption.
The rally was attended by members of his family – brothers Iskender, Ruslan and Tilek – as well as a number of supporters, including lawyer Kanatbek Aziz, adopted son Munarbek Saypidinov, as well as several deputies and politicians.
The participants in the rally in support of the corrupt ex-official had neat identical posters demanding the closure of Azattyk, an NGO, and bringing ex-Prime Minister Sapar Isakov to justice.
In general, the sending of posters at the rallies was similar to posts in the Facebook group for the closure of Azattyk. This group is moderated by fakes supporting Matraimov. Also, real supporters of the ex-customs officer can be seen among the founders of the group.
Raiym Matraimov for more than two years – from 2015 to 2017 – served as deputy head of the Kyrgyz customs. However, he worked in the structure of customs for over 10 years. During this time, he established a corruption scheme. The exact amount of money that Matraimov and his relatives earned due to corruption schemes is still unknown. However, there were signs of sudden (and illegal) enrichment of his family – journalists, for example, managed to find expensive real estate of the Matraimov family both in Kyrgyzstan and abroad. In the United States, Matraimov and his wife were included in the sanctions “Magnitsky List”.
The Matraimov clan had a great influence on Kyrgyz politics – his older brother Iskender Matraimov is a member of parliament. The Mekenim Kyrgyzstan party, associated with the Matraimovs and the authorities, won the parliamentary elections on October 4, 2020.
Sadyr Japarov’s first foreign visit
President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov was on a two-day visit to Moscow from 24 to 26 February. This is his first trip abroad as head of state. On the first day, he met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and invited him to have an official visit to Kyrgyzstan.
During the two-day visit, Japarov also met with Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Chairman of the State Duma Viacheslav Volodin, Chairman of the Federation Council Valentina Matvienko. Also, meetings were held with representatives of the business communities of the Russian Federation and compatriots.
Earlier it was reported that negotiations will be held on obtaining a vaccine against coronavirus, grant assistance and a concessional loan of 100 million USD, it is planned to discuss issues of gas tariffs and an increase in the number of rail and flights between the two countries.
Experts believe that Japarov’s visit to Moscow can be called an introductory one. In the international arena, Japarov is not particularly well known. During the meeting with the President of Russia and other senior officials, there will be a process of reconciliation of points of view.
On February 24, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti published an interview with Sadyr Japarov, in which he called Russia a reliable ally and said that during the visit he intends to discuss attracting Russian investments – not only large companies and large corporations, but also representatives of small and medium-sized businesses.
It is not yet known what kind of investments we are talking about. The fate of energy projects remains unresolved – the construction of Kambar-Ata-1 and the Upper Naryn HPP cascade. In November of the last year, Sadyr Japarov promised that the construction of the Upper Naryn cascade of hydroelectric power stations would begin. Later, the authorized bodies of Russia and Kyrgyzstan even discussed this issue.
Before Sadyr Japarov’s visit to Russia, the government newspaper Slovo Kyrgyzstan published its article “Allied Ties” – on the ties between Kyrgyzstan and Russia, in which they have noted that 2020 had been declared the Cross Year of Russia and Kyrgyzstan, but the coronavirus pandemic prevented the full-scale implementation of all the planned activities, of which there were more than 200, offering to implement them this year.
The President of Kyrgyzstan will make his second official visit to Kazakhstan and then to Uzbekistan.
General epidemiological situation
Since the beginning of January, not a single case of coronavirus infection has been reported in Tajikistan. The last three cases of the disease were detected on January 10, 2021. According to official statistics, over the entire period of the pandemic 13,308 infected people were registered in the country, of which 13,218 people recovered, and 90 cases were fatal. According to the Ministry of Justice, during the pandemic, mortality in Tajikistan increased by 8.6 thousand (13.7%) compared to 2019, but the official authorities do not comment on the reason for such an increase.
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon said that, given the absence of new infections during the month, it can be said that there is no coronavirus in the country. Rahmon also added that despite the absence of patients, wearing a mask in public places and maintaining personal hygiene are essential.
Foreigners were allowed to enter Tajikistan without a PCR test
Tajikistan allows foreigners enter the country without a PCR test result if they have a certificate of vaccination against coronavirus. Citizens who have received the vaccine can enter Tajikistan upon presentation of a vaccination certificate. However, if a foreigner was vaccinated 2 or 3 weeks ago, then he still must pass a PCR test. If a month or more has passed since the receipt of the vaccine, then the result of the PCR test is not required.
Foreigners who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19, as before, must have with them a certificate of the absence of coronavirus infection (COVID-19), obtained by testing by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method, made no earlier than 72 hours (3 days) before arriving in Tajikistan. Children under 3 years old are exempted from this certificate.
Jafarov noted that not a single case of coronavirus infection has been recorded in the country over the past two months, and also mentioned that South African or British strains of this virus have not reached the republic.
Recall that Tajikistan will receive 732 thousand doses of AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine for vaccination of priority groups of the population, according to the first interim projection of the distribution of vaccines against coronavirus on the initiative of COVAX.
Opening of mosques
A week after Emomali Rahmon announced the victory of Tajikistan over the coronavirus, it was decided to open mosques. The Ministry of Health has urged believers to maintain social distance and wear masks inside the mosque. At the entrance to the mosque, people are treated with hand sanitizer, hand out instructions on compliance with epidemiological safety standards are given, and masks are sold as well.
Mosques in Tajikistan were closed in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus in early March 2020, while markets, parks and catering establishments were free to operate.
Visits of foreign representatives
In February, the Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Stanislav Zas visited Tajikistan. During the three-day program, Zas spoke with Emomali Rahmon, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sirojiddin Mukhriddin, also Secretary of the Republic’s Security Council Nasrullo Mahmudzoda and Head of the Ministry of Defense Sherali Mirzo. During the meetings, a plan for implementing the decisions of the session of the CSTO Collective Security Council was approved, the participation of Tajikistan in the CSTO exercises and the need to strengthen the Tajik-Afghan border were discussed. Zes also discussed with Mahmudzoda about the international anti-drug operation Channel, which is aimed at crossing drug supplies from Afghanistan.
On February 18, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Kamilov visited Tajikistan. Kamilov met with Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojidin Mukhridin. The ministers talked about the development of Tajik-Uzbek relations in the political, trade, economic, humanitarian, and cultural spheres. Also, the Minister of Uzbekistan met with Emomali Rahmon and handed him a document from the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, including an invitation to visit Uzbekistan to participate in the International Conference on the theme: “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity. Challenges and opportunities”.
Bloggers in Tajikistan will now have to pay taxes on their income, said the Head of the Tax Committee Shamsullo Kabirzoda during the final press conference. As Kabirzoda noted, the tax committee analyzed the work of bloggers in Tajikistan and came to the conclusion that they receive income for disseminating ideas and opinions. According to the results of the same analysis, 29 channels, whose owners were personally notified of the upcoming taxation, were taxed. Bloggers were obliged to register with the tax authorities by April 1, 2021.
Tajik bloggers reacted differently to this news. In an interview with Asia Plus, Rafael Gulov noted that having an insignificant income, he will still pay taxes, but this will not affect the cost of his services for promoting clients. And bloggers Shoira Pulatova and Zanjabil Bro said that they do most of their advertising for free and do not have much income.
On February 14, the Head of the State Committee for National Security of Tajikistan, Saimumin Yatimov, met with the Head of the Supreme Council of Afghanistan for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul. During the meeting, Yatimov and Abdullah discussed intra-Afghan peace talks in Qatar, bilateral security cooperation and the situation along the Tajik-Afghan border. The issue of joint efforts to combat terrorism and extremism was also raised.
On February 15, the press service of the President of Tajikistan reported that the day before Yatimov’s visit to Kabul, Emomali Rahmon held telephone conversation with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. During the telephone conversation, regional security issues and bilateral relations were discussed.
Another victim of humiliating treatment of juniors
Shakhbol Mirzoyev, a former soldier who became disabled as a result of a beating in the army in 2014, died on the night of February 1. Not long before that, Shakhbol was hospitalized in the regional hospital in Khujand, where he was under an artificial respirating unit for 6 days. The exact cause of death is not known, but relatives said Shakhbol had signs of pneumonia.
Recall that in 2013, after graduating from the Khujand Commercial University, Shakhbol voluntarily joined the ranks of the border troops of the State Committee for National Security, stationed in the Rudaki region. In March 2014, he was beaten by a paramedic from a military unit. As a result of severe beating, Shakhbol suffered a fracture of the fifth vertebral disc, bone marrow damage, blockage of the urinary tract and dysfunction of the hip joints.
The Shakhbol case was the worst case of humiliating treatment of juniors in the Tajik army, but his family received neither money for treatment nor compensation for damage. Shahbol’s parents sold their livestock and house to pay for an expensive spine surgery, but it has been in vain.
General epidemiological situation
Despite the fact that officially the presence of coronavirus in Turkmenistan has not yet been recognized, according to media reports, in February there was an increase in the incidence in the country, as well as an increase in the number of patients who had recovered and have complications. Cases of COVID-19 infection are confirmed by tests in hospitals and commercial testing sites, according to anonymous sources.
To counter the spread of the coronavirus, the country’s authorities have organized sanitization of state institutions and school No. 15 in Ashgabat, tightening restrictions on movement and fining for appearing in public places without a mask.
This month, police surveillance of masked offenders was intensified in the streets and markets of the country. Noticing people who incorrectly put on a mask or took it off in order to drink water, the police immediately arrest them and take them to the police station. The detainees are obliged to pay a fine of 50 manats and explain to them the need to wear masks.
Restrictions for COVID-19 Prevention – Income for the officers of law
The restrictions imposed earlier on trade, international flights, catering, and events were extended until March 1, 2021. Thus, only citizens under 50 can still legally move between regions for a good reason (for medical treatment, funerals of loved ones, business trips, etc.) and only by plane, having a certificate of absence of COVID-19 with them.
Meanwhile, restrictive measures and their selective application have become a new way of “earning money” for representatives of the law agencies. While the official coronavirus test costs 100 manats, the Mary Sanitary and Epidemiological Station often demands 200 manats from people and does not issue a receipt. Mary’s air ticket offices sell tickets through intermediaries, which are most often representatives of the transport police, which is why the cost of the Mary-Ashgabat ticket increases 2-3 times. In Dashoguz, sellers give bribing police officers to be allowed to sell goods around closed markets. According to residents, the closure of markets did not affect the number of sellers and buyers, but due to bribes it only increased the prices of goods. Moreover, despite the official ban on catering, several restaurants, which, according to sources from the Chronicle of Turkmenistan, belong to the president’s associates, operate freely behind curtained windows and doors.
First of all, the Russian vaccine “Sputnik V” was received by workers of medical institutions and law enforcement agencies of Ashgabat and Lebap velayat. According to those who were vaccinated, some people had no side effects, while others took a long time to recover from the vaccine.
Mass vaccination of the population is planned to begin in March, but neither the exact principles of selection, nor the procedure is yet known. The country’s authorities not only did not publish an official statement on the start of vaccination, but also did not comment on its progress in any way. Due to the fact that the exact dates of vaccination of the remaining groups of the population are not known, many students studying at foreign universities are afraid that this year they may not get the opportunity to go to study.
Struggle to Survive: Money Transfers Against Turkmen Students
On February 18, a Turkmen student at the Kalmyk State University Myalikberdy Allamuradov went to the center of Elista to hold a single person protest due to difficulties with money transfers. In his hands he was holding a poster with the words “The Turkmen dictator deprived us of money. This is genocide against the people”. 15 minutes later, Allamuradov and his friend from Uzbekistan, who was filming what was happening on video, were detained. The police officers explained to him that the Russian legislation allowing single person protest is not provided for foreigners, and the presence of the operator does not make the protest as a “single person”. Now Allamuradov will face expulsion from the university and deportation to Turkmenistan.
However, Myalikberdy Allamuradov is not the only student who has found himself in a difficult position due to the difficulties with money transfers. Most Turkmen students studying in foreign universities cannot receive remittances from their parents, as a result of which they face expulsion. Some students survive on the help of relatives living abroad, while others are working on part-time jobs, which in most cases is illegal.
On February 24, the regional branches of the bank “Halkbank” were instructed to replenish the accounts of the “Visa” card only for those citizens whose children are studying abroad. However, due to long queues at banks and money transfer restrictions, some parents have been unable to send money for several months. According to depositors in Turkmenabat, money can be transferred to the card for a bribe in the amount of 10-20% of the total transfer amount.
At the moment, the only, but also very limited, way of transferring money abroad is Western Union. Branches of Western Union resumed their work at the end of January, but the amount of transfers was reduced from 200 USD to 50 USD twice a month.
However, if parents still manage to transfer money to a university account or student’s card, there is no guarantee that the money will reach the recipient in full and on time. Thus, students at Belarusian universities, whose parents paid for their education at the beginning of December, were included in the list of debtors. In Turkmen banks, customers are told that the transfer was made, but the payment has not yet reached the universities.
On February 10, in Mary velayat, about 80 women gathered at the building of the khyakimlik to express their dissatisfaction with the lack of food products. Interruptions in the supply of groceries and long lines at state stores, which people must occupy from 2 a.m., have angered the local population. People are also unhappy with the fact that the bread ration has been cut from three to one loaf per hand, and in addition to basic products, buyers are obliged to purchase stale goods.
The food crisis in February 2021 has only worsened, and food prices are constantly rising. For most of the population, subsidized products are vital since the financial situation does not allow buying from private stores. However, fruits, cottonseed oil and eggs have disappeared from the counters of state shops, and the quality of the available goods leaves much to be desired.
The townspeople also complain about the poor nutrition in kindergartens. In one of the kindergartens in the Balkan velayat, less than two kilograms of pasta or three kilograms of rice per day are allocated for 180 children . The situation in other kindergartens is no different. According to their parents, they have repeatedly witnessed the theft of food by the managers, and when the cooks complain about the lack of food, the manager tells them to “cook as they want”. The media has written more than once about the poor nutrition in kindergartens, trying to urge officials to conduct an inspection, but none of the kindergartens received the attention of government agencies.
The murder of a young athlete
On January 27, 14-year-old Suleiman Tursunbaev died in a hospital in the Dashoguz region after he was severely beaten after a judo competition held in the Bakharden district of the Ahal region. Young people of athletically build took Suleiman away in an unknown direction and, after being severely beaten, left him to die in the street. Casual passers-by called an ambulance but having been refused by one of the city’s hospitals, they were forced to take him to the hospital based on his place of residence, which was located more than 500 kilometers away.
According to eyewitnesses, Suleiman told his parents that he was beaten for winning a competition over an opponent to whom he was asked to succumb. The administration of the boarding school, in which the young athlete studied, denies this version. According to the head teacher at the boarding school Shemshat Orazkuliyeva, Suleiman died from profuse bleeding caused by the extraction of a tooth. Orazkulieva also added that no competitions have been held inside and outside the school since September 1.
Suleiman Tursunbayev’s story attracted the attention of the media and Turkmen activists living abroad. On February 19, in New York, a picket was to be held in front of the UN building to attract the attention of the international community. However, due to heavy snowfall in New York and difficulties with movement, the picket was canceled.
President of Turkmenistan appoints his son as Deputy Prime Minister
39-year-old Serdar Berdimuhamedov will also be a chairman of the country’s Supreme Control Chamber and will become a member of the State Security Council of Turkmenistan.
To this end, the head of state has expanded the number of deputy heads of government. According to the decree, the position was introduced “in order to further improve the work of the Cabinet of Ministers and the State Security Council, as well as to strengthen control over state property, including the economic use of financial resources and licensing operations on them in accordance with the law.”
The President also said that the duties of the new Deputy Prime Minister will include digitalization and the introduction of innovative technologies in the system of state and public order, in healthcare, education, finance and the economy.
Earlier, since February 7, 2020, Serdar Berdimuhamedov served as the Minister of Industry and Construction Production of Turkmenistan. Baymyrat Annamammedov, who previously held the post of deputy minister of this department, was appointed to the vacant position of minister.
Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov himself is 63 years old, he has been the president of Turkmenistan since 2007. Before that, Saparmurat Niyazov was in the post of President of Turkmenistan since 1991.
General epidemiological situation
Over the past month, the average number of cases of coronavirus in Uzbekistan was about 40 people per day and reached 79,926. The recovery rate in Uzbekistan was 98%. At the end of February, 808 patients are being treated in the country’s hospitals.
The introduction of new quarantine measures after the detection of the “British strain” of the coronavirus in Uzbekistan is not planned . On January 30, a patient infected with a British strain of coronavirus was identified in Uzbekistan.
On February 17, Uzbekistan certified and approved the Sputnik V vaccine, developed by the Russian Scientific Center named after Gamaleya, for mass use.
The relevant decisions were made by the Republican Special Commission to Combat Coronavirus.
Mass vaccination against coronavirus will start in March, and by the end of 2021 7 million people, or 20% of the population, will be vaccinated.
Vaccinations will be voluntary. People over 65 years old, people with chronic diseases, employees of medical, educational institutions and law enforcement agencies who work in contact with the population will be the first to receive the vaccine.
Currently, the country is undergoing the third phase of clinical trials of the Chinese vaccine ZF 2001. Already 6823 volunteers received the first dose, 2556 people – the second dose and 6 volunteers – the third dose of the medical product.
The Ministry of Innovations has proposed to use this medical product for vaccination of the population of Uzbekistan in case of successful completion of the tests. Vaccine production will be localized.
In addition, it is planned to receive 100,000 doses of Comirnaty, manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech (USA-Germany). The vaccine was supposed to start in April or May.
Under the COVAX program, Uzbekistan will receive 2.6 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine (England-Sweden). The first batch of 800,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine will arrive in the country in March, and the bulk will be delivered by the middle of this year.
Russian billionaire of Uzbek origin Alisher Usmanov will purchase 500 thousand doses of coronavirus vaccine for Uzbekistan at his own expense. This was stated by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev at an extraordinary meeting of the Namangan Regional Council of People’s Deputies. The head of state said that at the first stage, it is planned to supply 1 million vaccines, of which Alisher Usmanov will buy 500 thousand at his own expense.
Removal of air restrictions
Uzbekistan lifted all restrictions on air travel with Germany. The corresponding decision was made by the Special Republican Commission. All flights – inbound, outbound and transit between Uzbekistan and Germany are allowed to resume again.
Recall that restrictions on entry from Germany and seven other countries were introduced by the Uzbek authorities on December 21. This was due to the deterioration of the epidemic situation in these states, and, in particular, with the emergence of the so-called British strain of coronavirus.
Adoption of the law on international commercial arbitration
On February 8, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed the law on international commercial arbitration.
The document regulates relations in the field of international commercial arbitration. In particular, the arbitral award, regardless of the country in which it was made, is recognized as binding, and is enforced upon filing a written application with the court.
According to Sobirjon Mukhammmedov, a member of the Tashkent City Bar Council, the adoption of this law is aimed at protecting the interests of local and foreign business representatives, increases the investment and legal attractiveness of Uzbekistan.
The law will come into force upon the expiration of 6 months from the date of its official publication.
To implement the project for the construction of the Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway, working groups have been created from representatives of Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
According to him, at present, preliminary agreements have been reached on the construction of a trans-Afghan transport corridor connecting Central Asia with the Indian Ocean.
Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in early February signed a “road map” for the construction of the Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway. The project is planned to be prepared in May, and construction will begin in September.
President of Uzbekistan opens a stone paper factory in Fergana
During the trip of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to the Fergana region, he was presented with a project for the production of stone paper in the city of Fergana.
Here, on the basis of a unique technology from China, the production of 9 thousand tons of stone paper per year has been established. The enterprise was launched in pilot mode a day before the president’s visit.
Stone paper has several advantages. A lot of water is used to make cellulose paper, which makes it unsuitable for further use due to harmful substances in the composition. Moreover, in the production of paper from stone, water is not used.
Such paper has higher strength and durability. It is resistant to moisture and dirt. Therefore, stone paper is convenient to use in printing, packaging, and wallpaper production. It is in high demand in the foreign market.
The company employs 60 people. The head of state got acquainted with the technological process, inquired about the quality of the paper produced.
Alisher Usmanov’s companies enter the telecom market of Uzbekistan
Mobile operator MegaFon and USEM Telecom (digital division of Alisher Usmanov’s USM, controls MegaFon and ICS Holding IT group) are creating a joint venture Digital Holding with local partners in Uzbekistan.
51% in it will be owned by Digital Invest, which, in turn, will be owned on a parity basis by USEM Telecom and MegaFon. Another 49% of Digital Holding will be owned by the government of Uzbekistan through the Agency for State Assets Management (ASAM).
Digital Holding will be engaged in the development of telecommunications infrastructure, “the introduction of advanced technologies and systems in the areas of information security, data storage, labeling and control of the movement of certain types of goods,” the statement said.
For this, the experience in the implementation of digital projects will be used, which is available from MegaFon, IKS Holding and the Center for the Development of Advanced Technologies (CRPT, is engaged in product labeling; a joint project of USM Group, Rostec and Elvis-Plus Group of Alexander Galitsky).
Kamilov’s tour of Central Asia
The head of the Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Uzbekistan, starting from mid-February, made working visits to four countries of Central Asia – Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
During the visits, Kamilov met with the presidents, foreign ministers, where they discussed the current state and prospects for the further development of strategic partnership relations between Uzbekistan and neighboring countries in the region.
The Minister also conveyed to the leaders of the Central Asian countries the invitation of the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev to the international high-level conference “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity. Challenges and Opportunities”, which will be held this year in Tashkent.
Dismissal of the mayor and prosecutor
President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev criticized the khokim and prosecutor of Namangan for the condition of the Bunyodkor mahalla, where he made an unscheduled visit on February 19, after the end of the session of the Namangan regional council of people’s deputies, he conducted an unplanned visit to the Bunyodkor mahalla, which is 18 km from the center of Namangan.
The head of state also went to the 74th stronghold of the Namangan Internal Affairs Directorate of Internal Affairs. There he criticized the khokim of Namangan Olimjon Isaev and the prosecutor Bakhromjon Yuldashev (responsible for the sector to which the makhalla is assigned) for the deplorable condition of the facility, dilapidated walls and the building.
At an extraordinary session of the city council of people’s deputies on February 23, the former head of Namangan, Olimjon Isayev, was dismissed from office. The prosecutor of Namangan, Bakhromjon Yuldashev, also lost his post.
After the criticism, the head of the Namangan region, Shavkat Abdurazzakov, announced that he would move to live in this area and would live in a container with the inscription “House of the khokim of the region”.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan reacted to the statement of the Kyrgyz Prime Minister about the Tortkul reservoir
The Tajik Foreign Ministry called on Kyrgyz politicians to “be very careful” to approach statements on the Tajik-Kyrgyz border, the process of delimitation and demarcation of which has not yet been completed. The department published the corresponding statement on February 10.
Thus, it reacted to the recent statement of the new Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Ulukbek Maripov about the Tortkul reservoir in the border area of the two countries – he said that its sources allegedly passed to Tajikistan. This statement almost provoked a scandal. Deputy of the Jogorku Kenesh Tazabek Ikramov demanded to convene a closed meeting so that the prime minister could explain how it happened. Later, the press service of the government of Kyrgyzstan explained that Maripov “voiced the problem of distribution of water resources under an agreement signed on May 16, 1991”.
On February 7, Maripov himself recorded a video message in which he said that he meant the Kaiyrma canal, located 500-600 meters from the main water intake.
In today’s statement of the Tajik Foreign Ministry, it is indicated that the section along which the source passes, “until the completion of the delimitation of the Tajik-Kyrgyz state border, in accordance with international law, is considered undivided.” “At the moment, there can be no question of the transfer of any disputed area by one party to the other party,” the department assured. It also drew the attention of Kyrgyz politicians to the fact that the dissemination of unverified information can contribute to destabilization of the situation in the border territories of the two states.
The Tortkul reservoir is the only one in the Batken region. It is also the only source of fresh water for residents of six nearby villages and Batken, 24.kg reports . The reservoir area is 6.6 square kilometers, the volume is 90 million cubic meters of water.
MFA of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan signed a cooperation program for 2021-2023
The Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan signed a cooperation program for 2021-2023 on February 19.
Inter-ministerial consultations were held via videoconference at the level of Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Mukhtar Tleuberdi and Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov.
The parties discussed topical issues of bilateral cooperation, including in the trade and economic, transit, transportation, and cultural and humanitarian spheres. The schedule of upcoming events at the highest and high levels was also considered.
In addition, an exchange of views took place on interaction within the framework of regional and international organizations. Particular attention was paid to the development of dialogue in the format of consultative meetings of the heads of state of Central Asia.
Kazakhstan will transfer ammunition to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Two projects of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Kazakhstan on signing agreements with the two countries on gratuitous military-technical assistance have been published on the website “Open NLA”, Total.kz reports.
The project notes that the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Kazakhstan undertakes to deliver the equipment to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan at its own expense, that is, the transportation costs are fully borne by Kazakhstan. The department will take the equipment to Dushanbe (Tajikistan) and the settlement of Koy-Tash (Kyrgyzstan). Meanwhile, the agreements emphasize that neither one nor the other country can transfer or give military equipment to a third party.
From Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan the following will be transferred:
- 5.45 mm cartridge with PS bullet – 6 million pieces.
- 122 mm rocket with high-explosive fragmentation warhead – 1,000.
- ground signal cartridge of orange smoke – 2 thousand.
- 26 mm yellow light signal cartridge – 1 thousand.
- post of auditory interception “Vostok-SP” – 4 pieces.
- RPU “Galaktika” – 6 pieces.
- antenna switch “Kalina 12×80” – 1 piece.
- 5.45 mm cartridge with PS bullet – 3 million pieces.
- 23 mm cartridge – 20 thousand pieces.
- 82 mm shot – 10 thousand pieces.
Dushanbe and Tashkent intend to work out mechanisms for the supply of water from Tajikistan to Uzbekistan.
Deputy Prime Minister of Tajikistan Davlatali Said in the format of a video conference held talks with Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade of Uzbekistan Sardor Umurzakov.
The parties agreed to intensify joint work to improve conditions for the development of mutual trade volumes by consistently eliminating existing technical barriers and ensuring favorable access of Uzbek and Tajik products to the markets of the two countries.
In addition, it is planned to intensify interaction on the modernization of a number of hydraulic structures and facilities by attracting financial and technical assistance from international financial institutions and donors. It is also envisaged to develop a mechanism to ensure a stable and timely flow of water to Uzbekistan from reservoirs on the territory of Tajikistan.
Berdimuhamedov invited Uzbek companies
President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov sent a message to President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, in which he said that a tender was announced in Turkmenistan for the design and construction of a modern park of culture and recreation “Tashkent” in Ashgabat in honor of the capital of Uzbekistan.
In his letter, Berdimuhamedov also expressed support for Uzbekistan’s initiative to hold a high-level international conference in Tashkent on July 15-16 on the topic “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity. Challenges and Opportunities”.
Uzbekistan received a delegation from Kazakhstan
The Kazakh delegation arrived in Uzbekistan. The Ministry of Transport of Uzbekistan received a Kazakh delegation. The main topic of the conversation is the development of bilateral cooperation between states. Namely, joint infrastructure projects, including the implementation of the Turkestan-Shymkent-Tashkent high-speed railway project and the construction of a new Maktaaral-Darbaza railway line.
Also, Kazakh officials discussed with the acting Minister of Transport of Uzbekistan Ilham Makhkamov the issue of increasing regular flights and opening new routes.
Inter-MFA consultations were held by Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic considered the schedule of upcoming visits at the highest level. Political consultations were held at the level of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan Marat Syzdykov and First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic Nuran Niyazaliev.
During the consultations, a wide range of topical issues of Kazakh-Kyrgyz cooperation in the political, trade-economic, investment, water-energy and cultural-humanitarian spheres were discussed. An exchange of views took place on the interaction of countries within the framework of international and regional organizations.
The schedule of upcoming visits at the highest and high levels was substantively reviewed. The importance of stepping up work to expand the legal framework for cooperation and implementation of the agreements reached earlier was noted. Following the conversations, the parties agreed to continue bilateral contacts in the spirit of friendship and good-neighborliness, alliance, and strategic partnership.
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 the donor.