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Month in Review: Central Asia in January 2021

The first month of 2021 in the countries of Central Asia began with parliamentary and presidential elections in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the purchase of various vaccines for coronavirus, periodic protests, and an ambiguous epidemiological situation in different countries. 

The analytical platform CABAR.asia presents a brief overview of the major events in the region over the past month.

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General epidemiological situation

In January, compared to December, there is an increase in the incidence of coronavirus by 10 percent in Kazakhstan, from 23.1 thousand to 25.6 thousand cases. The number of laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus infection in Kazakhstan, according to official data, amounted to 187 970. Where 2,556 people died (seven deaths were registered on January 31).

Cancellation of strict quarantine in Almaty

Almaty has moved from the “yellow” to the “green” zone in terms of the rate of detection of those infected with coronavirus.

The city stayed in the “yellow” zone  for  one day – January 30. The severity of quarantine measures depends on which zone (“red”, “yellow” or “green”) the city or region is located in.

Earlier, on January 28, Almaty was in the “red” zone, the sanitary inspector of the city Zhandarbek Bekshin  decided to  tighten quarantine measures from February 1. Among the measures taken were the mandatory hospitalization of patients with any form of coronavirus – mild or severe, a new schedule of catering from 9 am to 8 pm, a ban on work on the weekends. Bekshin also decided to suspend the work of cinemas and theaters, which had begun work in October 2020.

Now, according to the data of the matrix for assessing the epidemiological situation in the regions of the country, Akmola, West Kazakhstan, Kostanay, Pavlodar, North Kazakhstan regions are in the “red” zone.

In the “yellow” zone: Nur-Sultan, Atyrau, East Kazakhstan, and Karaganda regions.

All the other regions are located in the “green” zone in terms of the spread of Covid-19.

The level of severity of quarantine restrictions and measures depend on the zone in which the region is located.

Kazakhstan decided to start vaccination with the Russian “Sputnik V ” ahead of schedule

Kazakhstan plans to start vaccinations with Russia’s Sputnik V on February 1, ahead of schedule, mentioned the republic’s health minister, Alexei Tsoi, on Tuesday.

The “Sputnik V” vaccine produced in the “Karaganda pharmaceutical complex” in Kazakhstan. Photo: Sputnik / Abzal Kaliev

Earlier, Nurlybek Asylbekov, Acting Deputy Chairman of the Medical and Pharmaceutical Control Committee, said that vaccination using the Russian Sputnik V in the country is planned at the end of February.

According to the ministry, it is planned to vaccinate 2 million people in the first half of the year, and 3-4 million in the second half. At the first stages, medical workers of infectious diseases hospitals, ambulances, emergency rooms and employees of sanitary and epidemiological services, teachers and medical workers of departmental medical services, students and people with chronic diseases will be vaccinated.

On December 18, the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, announced that the republic would launch a joint production of vaccines against coronavirus with the Russian Federation, both Russian and Kazakhstani, including for export. 

Nur Otan received over 71% of the popular vote

On January 10, Kazakhstan held elections to the Mazhilis of the Parliament and Maslikhats. The voter turnout was 63.3%.

Photo: Sputnik / Abzal Kaliev

According to preliminary results, popular vote in the elections of deputies of the Mazhilis of Parliament, elected by party lists, were distributed as follows: Nur Otan – 71.09%. Ak Zhol – 10.95%. People’s Party of Kazakhstan (PPK) – 9.10%. “Auyl” – 5.29%. Adal – 3.57%.

Thus, according to preliminary data, three parties enter the majilis – Nur Otan, Ak Zhol and NPK, which have overcome the 7% barrier. Nur Otan received 76 deputy mandates, Ak Zhol – 12 mandates, the People’s Party of Kazakhstan (PPK) – 10 mandates.

Election Day Protests

About 100 representatives of the unregistered “Democratic Party of Kazakhstan” and the movement “Oyan, Qazaqstan” were detained in the center of Almaty and Nur-Sultan on January 10, the day of parliamentary elections.

Photo: Olga Loginova / Vlast.kz

More than twenty protesters were detained in the central square of Uralsk. Individual detentions also took place in Aktobe and Shymkent. In all cases, activists tried to get together with calls to boycott what they saw as dishonest voting, in which there was no place for opposition parties. Five political associations took part in it: the ruling Nur Otan, the People’s Party of Kazakhstan, from the name of which the word “communist” has been removed, “Auyl”, “Ak Zhol” and “Adal” (formerly “Birlik”).

The opposition National Social Democratic Party (NSDP) of Kazakhstan, for which the embattled Kazakhstani banker Mukhtar Ablyazov had previously called for voting, decided to boycott the elections in late November.

On the evening of January 10, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan announced that all the activists brought to the offices had been released. None of them were brought to administrative and criminal liability. At the same time, the department did not name the exact number of citizens detained during that day.

The OSCE’s International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) stated that the January 10 parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan lacked genuine competition.  

The mission also noted that in Kazakhstan, many long-standing recommendations of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (one of the OSCE institutions), including those concerning fundamental freedoms, independence of election commissions, the right to vote and stand for elections, voter registration, mass media and the publication of the election results went unnoticed.

The Prime Minister of Kazakhstan has been appointed

Deputies of the Mazhilis of the Parliament of Kazakhstan approved Askar Mamin’s candidacy  for the post of Prime Minister of the Republic.

On January 10, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced that the government, according to the law, must resign after the election of deputies to the Mazhilis. The first President of the country Nursultan Nazarbayev, speaking about the candidacy for the post of Prime Minister, noted that Kazakhstan should maintain succession.

78 deputies voted for Mamin’s candidacy, 21 – abstained, and no one voted against.

The chairman and heads of committees in the Mazhilis of Kazakhstan have been elected

At the first plenary meeting of the Mazhilis, the deputies supported Nurlan Nigmatulin’s candidacy for the post of speaker of the lower house of parliament.

On January 14, the Nur Otan party faction nominated Nurlan Nigmatulin for the post of chairman of the majilis. The chairman of the party, Nursultan Nazarbayev, previously proposed Nigmatulin’s candidacy for the post of head of the Nur Otan faction in the majilis. The faction deputies unanimously supported the proposal of Elbasy.

Tokayev’s response to a State Duma deputy

The President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, wrote an article in which he stated that “no one from the outside” gave the territory of the country to the Kazakhs. The article was published in the state newspaper “Egemen Kazakhstan” (“Sovereign Kazakhstan”).

Tokayev also called on “to publicly confront the provocative actions of some foreigners who question our territorial integrity and criticize good-neighborly relations.” 

In December, Vyacheslav Nikonov, chairman of the Russian Federation State Duma Committee on Education and Science, mentioned on the air of Channel One that “the territory of Kazakhstan is a great gift from Russia and the Soviet Union”.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan  called on the  Charge d’Affaires of the Russian Federation due to Nikonov’s words. The head of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, Mukhtar Tleuberdi, called the   deputy’s statement a “complete rubbish”.

Later, Nikonov’s statements were  supported by  his fellow party member from United Russia, State Duma deputy Yevgeny Fyodorov.

Kazakhstan took over the chairmanship of the EAEU from Belarus

Since January 2021, the chairmanship in the statutory bodies of the Eurasian Economic Union has passed from Belarus to Kazakhstan.

The President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev previously reported that in January 2021 he would send an appeal to the heads of the EAEU states on the priorities of the republic’s chairmanship in the Union.

Periods of stay for foreigners extended due to pandemic

Periods of stay in Kazakhstan have been extended for foreign citizens due to the situation with the pandemic.

Considering the current situation, a decision has been made that will legalize the status of foreigners temporarily staying in the country and prevent violations of Kazakhstani legislation. 

The main focus is on foreigners arriving for family reunification, citizens with expired documents, as well as labor immigrants.

Thus, it is allowed to leave the country for foreigners and stateless persons, people for whom the validity of travel documents, residence permits of a foreigner, visas of the Republic of Kazakhstan, permits for temporary stay in the Republic of Kazakhstan expired or expire before June 5, 2021 without bringing to administrative responsibility. 

It will be possible not to carry a driver’s license with you in Kazakhstan

The Senate of the Parliament of Kazakhstan adopted a law according to which drivers will not be required to carry a document confirming the right to drive a vehicle. It will be enough for the driver to show an identity card to the police.

The bill provides for the exclusion from the current legislation of the norm obliging to have with you a driver’s license and vehicle registration certificates issued in the Republic of Kazakhstan. That is, the driver, if stopped by a police officer, will be able to present their identity card, and using it, the police officer will be able to check all the necessary documents through his tablet.

Now motorists will not have to pay fines for lack of documents, but these changes, according to the deputy, will not be applied to foreign drivers and foreign vehicles.

High-speed railway to be built from Turkestan to Tashkent

It is planned to start building a high-speed railway from Turkestan through Shymkent to Tashkent this year. This was announced by Prime Minister Askar Mamin, on January 26 at an expanded government meeting with the participation of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

Askar Mamin noted that in order to eliminate bottlenecks and increase the throughput in railway flows in the directions Kazakhstan – PRC and Kazakhstan – Uzbekistan, work will be started on the modernization and construction of railway tracks on the Dostyk – Moiynty, Maktaral – Darbaza sections and bypassing the Almaty station. Construction of a railway line bypassing Almaty station  will  speed up the passage of goods in the direction of China.

Strikes by the oilfield workers

From 25th to 31st of January, workers at the Kokzhide mine in the Temir district of Aktobe region, developed by KMK Munai, went on strike demanding a 100 percent increase in wages. Earlier, the workers set out their requirements in an appeal to the authorities of Kazakhstan that in case of non-fulfillment of requests, they would suspend work.

The company “KMK Munai”, which employs about 400 people, was established in 2004. The company, according to information on its website, has contracts for subsoil use at the Kokzhide, Kumsay and Mortuk oil fields in the Aktobe region. The company’s shareholders are Yukon Energy Holding SA registered in Panama and the Kazakh-Chinese enterprise CNPC-Aktobemunaigas (50 percent each).

On January 31st, the workers of AMK “Munai” ended the strike as the parties “came to an agreement.” This statement was made by the Akimat of the Aktobe region.

Earlier in the first days of January in Aksai, WKO, workers of the foreign company Bonatti went on strike and hunger strike. They demanded a salary increase. The very next day, the company’s administration promised to increase the salary, and the strike ended.

In mid-January, worker of a drilling company in Aktau, Mangistau Oblast , also  went on strike . Company employees have expressed dissatisfaction with the size of the annual bonus.


General epidemiological situation

In January, a stable epidemiological situation was observed throughout the territory of Kyrgyzstan. The average daily number of cases of coronavirus in the republic did not exceed 170.

As of January 31st, the number of cases of coronavirus in Kyrgyzstan amounted to 84,377 people. Since the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic, 1408 people have died in the country.

The Ministry of Health has been instructed to ensure that the health system is fully prepared for a possible third wave of the spread of coronavirus infection. This decision was made following a meeting with members of the Scientific Advisory Board on Coronavirus Infection (COVID-19).

It was decided to temporarily postpone the resumption of the educational process offline for a number of classes and kindergartens. Bishkek mayor’s office reported this on January 30th.

Previously, offline training was launched for 4 parallels – 1, 5, 9 and 11 classes.

Sadyr Japarov was elected as the President of Kyrgyzstan

The Central Election Commission of Kyrgyzstan approved the results of the early presidential elections held on January 10, 2021.

79.20 percent voted for Sadyr Japarov, that is, over half of the votes of all voters who took part in the elections. Thus, the CEC of the country recognized S. Japarov as the President of Kyrgyzstan.

In total, 1,395,513 citizens took part in voting in the early presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan on January 10, 2021, which is 39.16 percent of the total number of voters included in the voter lists.

On January 28, Japarov officially took office as President of Kyrgyzstan. The inauguration ceremony was held in Bishkek at the Kyrgyz National Philharmonic.

Photo: president.kg

Sadyr Japarov took the oath, after which the head of the country’s CEC Nurzhan Shildabekova presented him with a standard, a certificate and a presidential badge. Thus, S. Japarov became the sixth president of Kyrgyzstan.

As the president said at the ceremony, Kyrgyzstan will adhere to a multi-vector foreign policy. Japarov plans to make his first foreign visit to Russia.

Early elections in Kyrgyzstan were held due to the fact that the previous president Sooronbay Jeenbekov resigned amid protests, where people showed their disagreement with the results of the parliamentary elections, which took place on October 4, 2020.

Referendum to amend the Constitution

A referendum to amend the Constitution of Kyrgyzstan can be scheduled for one day with elections to local keneshes.

After the change of power as a result of the October events in Kyrgyzstan, early presidential elections were called, along with which a referendum on the choice of the form of government was held. 80% of voters who came to elections, chose the presidential form of government. Now it has been announced that the previously developed draft of the new Constitution will be submitted to a referendum.

On November 17, 2020, the Jogorku Kenesh submitted for public discussion a new draft of the Fundamental Law of the country, which expanded the presidential powers. On November 20, Acting President Talant Mamytov convened a Constitutional Meeting to study and amend the draft Constitution. Almost a hundred people participated in this process. At the end of December 2020, the Constitutional Meeting prepared the first version of the new Constitution.

Resignation of the government

The government of Kyrgyzstan, headed by Prime Minister Sadyr Japarov, has resigned. The corresponding decree was signed by the acting president Talant Mamytov. This was reported by the press service of the president of Kyrgyzstan.

As noted, in connection with the official publication of the results of the early presidential elections by the Central Election Commission, S. Japarov applied for resignation of the prime minister. In this regard, the current government is considered to have resigned.

The decree states that all members of the current government will fulfill their duties until the formation of a new cabinet of ministers. First Deputy Prime Minister Artem Novikov will act as Prime Minister.

It should be noted that earlier S. Japarov resigned as acting head of the country president of the country, and also suspended the office of the Prime Minister in order to participate in the early presidential elections.

According to the law, the speaker of the parliament T. Mamytov became acting president, and First Deputy Prime Minister A. Novikov took over as head of the government.

Humanitarian aid commission investigation

The Commission for Studying the Distribution of Humanitarian Aid in Kyrgyzstan found that the number of deaths from COVID-19 in the republic is much higher than in official statistics, and humanitarian aid was partially stolen. This was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Elvira Surabaldieva.

Surabaldiyeva emphasized that the humanitarian aid that entered the country during the pandemic was “stolen by certain persons.” In the near future, the Deputy Prime Minister promised to organize a meeting with journalists and publish the results of the commission’s work, which, according to the Deputy Prime Minister’s statement, was not easy to develop. According to her, half of the members of the commission stopped working in the very first days, someone was frightened of the possible consequences, in other cases, friends and acquaintances “approached” the members and asked not to work further.

Detention of the former prime minister

In Kyrgyzstan, former prime minister Mukhammedkaly Abylgaziev was detained on suspicion of corruption and illegal enrichment. This was announced on January 27 by the press service of the State Committee for National Security (SCNS) of the country.

Muhammedkaly Abylgaziev. Photo: Government of the Kyrgyz Republic

The special services claim that M. Abylgaziev, being prime minister, against the interests of the state and citizens of the republic, unreasonably and in violation of national legislation signed a government decree, according to which Kumtor Gold Company CJSC, the largest gold mining company in the country, was additionally provided with territories for exploration and gold mining.

In addition, M. Abylgaziev, while being in the civil service, illegally increased his assets, several times exceeding his official income, the statement said. In order to legalize them, he acquired expensive objects of movable and immovable property in the territory of Bishkek, Chui, and Issyk-Kul regions, and also made financial investments in the construction of multi-apartment elite houses, in order to evade criminal liability, these assets were registered on dummies, the State Committee for National Security notes.

  1. Abylgaziev was appointed to the post of head of the government of Kyrgyzstan on April 20, 2018. He resigned on June 15, 2020, in connection with a criminal investigation into corruption in the sale of radio frequencies.

Presidential spokesperson has been detained

The State Committee for National Security of Kyrgyzstan detained the president’s press secretary. Nurgazy Anarkulov, head of the information policy department of the presidential administration of Kyrgyzstan, was detained for bribe solicitation.

Detention of N. Anarkulov. Photo: SCNS KR

As told in the Anti-Corruption Service of the State Committee for National Security, it was established that the head of the press service of the President of Kyrgyzstan, abusing his official position and pursuing the goal of personal material gain, extorted money on an especially large scale from an applicant for one of the leading government positions for a positive decision on the appointment.

Pre-trial proceedings have begun on the basis of a crime under Art. 326 of the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic (bribe solicitation).


Victory over COVID -19

Tajikistan has  completely defeated the coronavirus COVID-19, said President Emomali Rahmon in his annual message to parliament. He noted that all residents must comply with security measures.

According to the president, last year, the government Tajikistan has allocated 1.6 billion somoni (more than 145 million USD) to support the national healthcare system, and about 30 new hospitals were urgently commissioned in the country.

Photo: Press Service of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan

According to the Ministry of Health, there have been no new cases of coronavirus infection in Tajikistan during the last half of January. The total number of cases reached 13.3 thousand people, of which 13.2 thousand or 99.3 percent of patients recovered. 90 people have died from COVID-19. On the evening of January 31, 2020, not a single new fact of COVID-19 infection was registered in the territory of Tajikistan.

Tajikistan has received data on “Sputnik V” vaccine from Russia

Russia has provided Tajikistan with information on the Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19. According to the head of the Department of Sanitary and Epidemiological Security, and Emergency Medical Aid of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population of Tajikistan, Navruz Jafarov, the data was transmitted through diplomatic channels. The Sputnik V vaccine will be studied by a special working group to decide on its purchase.

Jafarov mentioned that Tajikistan is currently studying the Pfizer vaccine (USA), and also expects information about the AstraZeneca vaccine (UK).

Tajikistan and Uzbekistan resumed regular flights

Regular flights between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have been resumed . The corresponding decision was made by the republican headquarters for the fight against coronavirus. Flights between Dushanbe and Tashkent will be operated on Wednesdays by the Uzbek airline “Uzbekiston Havo Yullari”, and on Fridays by the Tajik “Somon Air”. Subkhonzoda also noted that all passengers traveling from Tajikistan to Uzbekistan or back must comply with all safety precautions.

Air traffic between Tashkent and Dushanbe was suspended on March 16, 2020. At present, the passage through the land border has been partially resumed between the countries. So far, this applies to three categories of citizens: students in universities, those who have a wife, husband, or children on the adjacent side, as well as those who have the appropriate written permission from the republican headquarters of Tajikistan or Uzbekistan.

Google tax

“Google Tax” of 18% came into effect from January 2021 in Tajikistan. Payers of “Google tax” are foreign persons or agents (local legal entities or individual entrepreneurs) providing electronic services to individuals in Tajikistan. The tax committee includes the sale of books and various media materials in electronic format, the transfer of rights to use programs, advertising, site support, storage and processing of information, statistics, hosting, access to search engines, the IT sphere and other services provided through the Internet.

Internet users will not feel the imposition of this tax. The tax is expected to replenish the republic’s budget.

Shorter military service

On January 29, the president of the country signed several laws , including the laws “On general conscription and military service”, “On training specialists considering the requirements of the labor market”, “On amendments to the Law of the Republic of Tajikistan “On consumer protection”.

The new law will allow reservists to serve only one month for money. A separate type of service will be organized for reservists: within a month they will be trained in the art of military service for a certain fee. Upon completion of these courses, they will be awarded a military registration card.

The adopted amendments also provide for the sending of university graduates to the army. Those of them who, during the training period, were trained at military departments, will be awarded the rank of reserve officer only after serving in the army for one year. Previously, this title was awarded to all university graduates who completed the appropriate training at the military departments immediately after graduation. This measure will apply to all graduates who have not reached 27 years of age at the time of graduation.

Oppositionist sentenced to 14 years in prison

Deputy Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan (SDPT) Makhmurod Odinaev was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Odinaev was found guilty under two articles of the Criminal Code of the Republic: “disorderly and insulting behavior ” and “Public calls to carry out extremist activities.” The politician himself categorically denied the charges against him.

Makhmurod Odinaev. Photo: ozodi.org

On December 5, 2020, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Tajikistan announced the arrest of Makhmurod Odinaev, who was put on the wanted list at the end of November. According to the supervisory authority, on October 29, the oppositionist, together with his ex-wife Mehrnigor Rizoeva and son Khabibullo, arrived at the military commissariat of the city of Gissar, where Odinaev “under the pretext that the employees of the military enlistment office illegally and unreasonably called his son Khabibullo into military service, deliberately violated public order spoke obscenely and used physical force against a representative of the authorities. ” Because of this, a case was opened against him under Article 237 ” disorderly and insulting behavior ” of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan.

In mid-January, a new charge was brought against the politician under article 307 (1) (“Public calls for extremist activities and public justification of extremism”) of the Tajik Criminal Code.

Makhmurod Odinaev has been involved in the protection of prisoners’ rights for a long time, for the last few years he has been the deputy chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan. The politician often criticized the actions of the republic’s law enforcement agencies in social networks. Last summer, in an interview with “Current Time”, Odinaev said that the pressure on him and the party from the authorities has recently intensified.


Registration of the Russian vaccine

On January 29, the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry of Turkmenistan issued a certificate of registration of the Russian vaccine against the coronavirus EpiVacCorona, the state information agency TDH reports.

Photo: Chronicle of Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan became the first country to register a vaccine outside of Russia.

In the TV report of the Turkmen state television, it was shown that along with the consignment of medicin, Russian specialists also arrived in the country and got acquainted with the conditions of its storage.

Radio Azatlyk also  reported that the start of mass vaccination is expected on 15 February. According to the sources of the publication, the Russian vaccine “Sputnik V” will be vaccinated, 350 kilograms of which were delivered on January 30 by a special flight of the “Turkmen Airlines” to Turkmenabat. After that, the entire stock was sent to Ashgabat.

Turkmenistan is among the top ten countries in the world in which not a single patient with coronavirus is officially registered. At the same time, official Ashgabat declares that it is taking all necessary measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

Police disobedience action

Residents of the Mary region of Turkmenistan, intending to go to work in Ashgabat, staged an action of disobedience due to the fact that they were forbidden to do so.

About 50 people gathered at a bus stop next to a gas station on the outskirts of the city of Shatlyk. They were going to go to the capital in trucks, the radio station’s correspondent reports. Police officers arrived at the scene and began to disperse people, but they refused to obey.

After that, the police drove a bus to the bus stop and, having loaded all the people standing on it, took them to the Shatlyk police station. There they tried to explain to the detainees that they had no right to go to the capital. However, citizens answered that they could not stay without work. Officially, the region can be left by going through a special commission and buying a ticket for a domestic flight. However, the commission does not recognize the need for a side job as a valid reason for the trip.

For many residents of the regions, travel to Ashgabat is the main source of income. Labor migration abroad was also widespread, but people cannot leave the country due to restrictions which are connected with coronavirus (the authorities officially deny its presence in Turkmenistan).

Resumption of work of Western Union

On January 19, the Western Union branches in Mary and Dashoguz resumed their work . WU branches in Ashgabat started operating a little earlier.

In Dashoguz, at the branches of the banks “Senagat”, “Turkmenbashi” and the Turkmen-Turkish banks, huge queues of people wishing to transfer money to children-students at foreign universities accumulate.

The transfer amount in the regions is limited to 50 USD, from the capital you can send up to 200 USD.

In Ashgabat, WU services stopped working  on January 4 . Back then, those wishing to use the services of the company were told that it will resume work on January 15. However, on this day, people were  informed that at least until the 25th, the WU offices would not be operating.

Record growth of the USD exchange rate

The USD price on the black market in Turkmenistan continues to grow and reached 32 manats at the end of January. The appreciation of the USD also pushed up market prices. Fearing the devaluation of the national currency, people try to buy foreign currency using the manats they already have.

On January 29, Radio Azatlyk correspondents reported that in almost all parts of Turkmenistan, including the capital Ashgabat, the price of the USD on the black market since the beginning of the week has increased from 28 to 32 manats.

Before that, last week the USD was sold at the level of 27-28 manat. The official exchange rate of the national currency in relation to foreign currency remains unchanged at 3.5 Turkmen manats per USD. At the same time, the exchange of cash currency has been illegal since 2016.

The authorities of Turkmenistan and the Central Bank do not comment on the situation with the double USD exchange rate in the country and its impact on the economy.

Development of a joint deposit

Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan signed an intergovernmental memorandum on joint exploration and development of the Dostlug hydrocarbon deposit in the Caspian Sea. According to the website of the President of Azerbaijan, the signing ceremony was attended by the presidents of Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, Ilham Aliyev and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, via video communication.

Photo: business.com.tr

“I would call today’s document historical, because for the first time Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are starting joint work on the development of a deposit in the Caspian Sea. Both, this deposit and work on the deposit will bring our countries and nations even closer together, will benefit both the Turkmen and Azerbaijani people,” I. Aliyev mentioned.

In turn, G. Berdimuhamedov noted that the document was the result of longstanding work and is aimed at strengthening mutual understanding in the energy sector, revealing the enormous mutual potential of the two largest energy powers, creating conditions in the Caspian Sea region for the development of sustainable energy, broad and mutually beneficial international partnership.

Turkmenistan lowers the price of electricity to Afghanistan

Turkmenistan has halved the price of electricity supplied to Afghanistan. The President of the Islamic Republic, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, said this at the opening ceremony of the power transmission line from the Turkmen city of Kerki to the Afghan Shibirgan, built in cooperation with Ashgabat.

TAP is one of the most important regional energy projects. A memorandum of understanding on it was signed in December 2015 between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. As expected, at the first stage of the project, electricity from Turkmenistan will be supplied to the Afghan cities of Andkhoy, Shibirgan and Mazar-i-Sharif. At the second stage – by early 2022 – to Puli-Khumri and Kabul, with further access to the cities of Pakistan.

In 2018, Ashgabat tried to double the price of electricity for Afghanistan, but the Afghan side refused to conclude a contract on new terms, considering this price too high, where Turkmenistan has to cut off supplies. After bilateral negotiations, the Turkmen side agreed to resume supplies at the same prices.


General epidemiological situation

According to the Ministry of Health of Uzbekistan, a stable epidemiological situation remains in the republic, which has been observed since November 2020.

In connection with the stabilization of the situation with the pandemic in the country, quarantine restrictions are gradually being lifted. The special republican commission for combating coronavirus decided to lift restrictions on the work of cultural institutions, catering and entertainment establishments, the press service of the Ministry of Health said on January 26.

The special commission recalled the need to strictly observe the relevant rules to ensure the public safety of catering and entertainment facilities.

It is noted that from January 28 of this year, concert events have been allowed in strict accordance with sanitary and epidemiological requirements. Also, restrictions on the operation of cafes and restaurants and entertainment establishments from 8:00 to 23:00 have been lifted.

The main goal is to create favorable conditions for cultural recreation and entertainment for residents and guests.

“British strain” of coronavirus detected in Uzbekistan

A 10-year-old citizen of Uzbekistan, who arrived from the UAE, has a “British strain” of coronavirus. This is the first case of registration of this type of COVID-19 in the country,  said  Deputy Minister of Health – Head of the Sanitary and Epidemiological Welfare Service Bakhodir Yusupaliev.

Photo: Shukhrat Latipov / Gazeta.uz

The virus was detected in a resident of Tashkent born in 2010, who returned from Dubai with her family on 23 January. A rapid test at the airport tested positive and she was referred to an infectious diseases’ hospital.

On the same day, functional and clinical examinations were carried out and a diagnosis of asymptomatic COVID-19 was made. The rest of the family members did not have the coronavirus and are in home quarantine.

Starting date of the vaccination against COVID -19

The start of mass vaccination against the new type of coronavirus COVID-19 in Uzbekistan is scheduled for late February or early March. This was announced on January 20 by the deputy head of the service of sanitary-epidemiological welfare and public health of the republic, Botirjon Kurbanov, in an interview with the news program of the local TV channel Sevimli.

According to him, the vaccination process will take place gradually. The first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which Uzbekistan has reserved under the COVAX program, will be delivered in a month. “At the first stage, 100,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine were ordered, and at the next stage, as other licensed vaccines appear, they will also be used,” said B. Kurbanov.

Earlier it was reported that the third stage of clinical trials of a vaccine produced in China is underway in Uzbekistan. More than 3400 local residents have already received the vaccine. In total, 9,000 volunteers will take part in clinical trials.

Extending restrictions on entry into the country

Uzbekistan has extended restrictions on entry into the country until March 1. By the decision of the Republican Special Commission to Combat Coronavirus, the ban on international flights with the UK, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Australia, the Netherlands, and South Africa was extended until March 1, the press service of the Ministry of Health of Uzbekistan mentioned on January 29.

This decision was made considering the analysis of the current epidemiological situation in these countries, as well as in order to ensure the epidemiological stability of coronavirus infection in Uzbekistan, in particular, to prevent the introduction of new strains of the virus from other countries, the report said.

Accident at TPP

On January 21, an outbreak of dusty-coal air mixture occurred at the 5th power unit of the Novo-Angren thermal power plant , the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Uzbekistan reports.

As a result of the incident during routine maintenance, three people died from injuries, and three more suffered burns of varying degrees. The deceased and injured are employees of service enterprises that carried out preventive work.

As a result of the accident, the infrastructure and technological equipment of the Novo-Angrensk thermal power plant were not damaged. The day before, the work of the enterprise was suspended for preventive measures.

Postponing the date of the presidential election

In Uzbekistan, it is proposed to postpone the election day from December to October. This issue was discussed on January 26 at a meeting of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis – the country’s parliament.

According to the discussed draft law, it is proposed to hold elections on the first Sunday of the third decade of October, that is, on October 24.

The current President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev was elected on December 4, 2016.

New ID- cards

On January 4, Uzbekistan started issuing national ID-cards instead of internal biometric passports. According to the ministry, until December 31, 2022, ID-cards will be issued primarily to persons who have reached the age of 16, as well as in case of loss of a passport, expiration of its validity, desire to change name, surname, or nationality. From January 1, 2023, the exchange of internal biometric passports for ID cards will become mandatory.

The cards will be issued for a period of 10 years and will be valid only on the territory of Uzbekistan. Replacement of documents will take place until January 1, 2030.

From January 1, 2021, travel abroad is allowed only with foreign biometric passports.

Initially, the introduction of national ID-cards in Uzbekistan was supposed to begin in July 2018. However, at the suggestion of the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and relevant ministries and departments, it was decided to postpone this process due to the active introduction of foreign biometric passports for citizens of the country. 

50 million USD to the Abraham Foundation

Uzbekistan  plans  to invest up to 50 million USD in the Abraham Foundation (Ibrahim Foundation), created by the United States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Podrobno.uz reports .

Photo: US Embassy in Uzbekistan

These three countries announced the creation of the fund on October 20, 2020. Through this fund, they are mobilizing over 3 billion USD in investment and private sector-led development initiatives to foster regional economic cooperation.

Central Asia

Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and the USA launch a 1 billion USD project

The governments of the United States, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have announced the creation of the Central Asia Investment Partnership. A joint statement on this matter has been  published on the website of the  US Embassy in Uzbekistan. 

The statement noted that the participants welcomed other countries to join this initiative in order to promote regional economic partnership and prosperity.

As part of this initiative, the United States International Development Finance Corporation (IFCD), Astana International Financial Center, acting in the interests of the government of Kazakhstan, and the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade of Uzbekistan will make every possible effort to mobilize at least 1 billion USD over five years in support of projects that promote private sector growth and economic ties in Central Asia.

Uzbekistan intends to establish bus connection with Kyrgyzstan through Tajik Sogd

Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan intend to resume bus service on the Tashkent-Osh route. This is stated in the draft decree of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on the development of tourism and pilgrimage in the republic posted  on the website for the discussion of draft regulatory documents.

According to the draft document, Uzbekistan intends to establish a bus service on the Tashkent-Osh route through the Tajik Sogd in the very near future for the development of tourism, in agreement with the government of Tajikistan.

Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan suspended passenger services in March last year due to the pandemic. The previous pass regime on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border was restored from September 1, 2020. However, the bus service is still inaccessible, only air flights have been resumed.  

Meanwhile, the draft decree of the President of Uzbekistan also provides for the opening of a bus service between the Uzbek cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent, and Termez with Dushanbe and Khujand.

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.


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