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Month in Review: Central Asia in July 2020

July 2020 in Central Asia is remembered for the crisis-ridden epidemiological situation in the region; re-imposed lockdown; nationwide mourning in two countries; unrest, mass disturbance and road closures; the foreign ministers’ meeting with China; and unprecedented Eid al-Adha celebrations. The analytical platform CABAR.asia presents an overview of the major events in the region over the past month.


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KAZAKHSTAN

Epidemiological situation

Kazakhstan has faced a surge in the number of COVID-cases in early July. Many hospitals faced a deficiency in the reception capacity, while the health workers have faced an unprecedented workload in strenuous environment. Of 365 official victims for the whole period, 111 people died in the first few days of July alone (a majority in the Karaganda region, 37 people). The country reported 1-1,5 to 2 thousand new cases daily[1].

People queue up in front of the pharmacy. Almaty, June 29, 2020. Photo: Maria Gordeeva / Reuters

The COVID-19 outbreak, rapidly progressing in late June, has seen a slowdown by the end of July; the situation, nonetheless, remains grim. The death toll and daily increase in new coronavirus cases suggest stabilizing trends. The country reports 1500-1600 new cases daily. The daily increase in COVID-19 cases has declined from 4 to 2.1%, whilst the number of recovered patients has increased by 60%. The number of ambulance calls fell by 23%, while there have been 20% fewer people in observation and under intensive care[2].

A total of 89,078 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the country. As of July 26, according to the Health Ministry, 793 people died from novel coronavirus and another 319 infected with COVID-19 died from other illnesses. As of July 23, 59,517 people recovered[3].

The way Kazakhstan chose to tally COVID-19 data excludes thousands of pneumonia deaths with clinical and epidemiological evidence of coronavirus but with a negative PCR test. The pneumonia outbreak in the summer was recognized as a coronavirus symptom by the Health Ministry that latter affirmed it won’t count pneumonia cases and pneumonia deaths before August 1 in the future COVID-19 and pneumonia figures[4].

COVID -19 control measures

To facilitate the positive effect of the restrictions imposed in July and considering the possible deterioration of the COVID-19 situation in Kazakhstan and neighboring states, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on July 29 instructed the state commission to extend the lockdown for two weeks, followed by a phased easing of quarantine rules.

Earlier, the Kazakh authorities re-enforced quarantine rules in the country from July 5 to August 2, limiting bus shuttles between the regions and the working time of public transport.

Apart from that, Kazakhstan has banned entertaining, sports, and other mass events, as well as family and commemorative events. Movement on the streets, in parks and squares, is limited; the movement of persons over the age of 65 is limited[5].

In late July, Kazakhstan has also ordered mandatory mask-wearing. The chief sanitary state doctor Aizhan Esmagambetova signed a decree on the rules for wearing face masks, asserting that masks must be worn not only indoors, but also in public transport and on the street[6].

International flights resume

Kazakhstan seeks to resume flight operations with Thailand and Georgia in August, reports a chairman of the Tourism Committee within the Culture and Sports Ministry Dastan Ryspekov[7]. The same might be the case for other countries that are still closed to Kazakh citizens. Air travel resumption is still under discussion.

Since June 20, Kazakhstan has resumed international flights with several countries, including Turkey, China, South Korea, Thailand, Georgia, and Japan, but then Turkey unauthorized the entry for Kazakh citizens.

Nazarbayev’s anniversary

On July 6, the first president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, turned 80. He has been the president for 30 years, but even after voluntarily resigning from this post, he continues to influence the country’s political life.

The first president’s birthday, which coincides with the state holiday – the Capital City Day, is traditionally widely celebrated. This year, however, the coronavirus pandemic made its adjustments.

On July 6, on the Day of Astana and Nursultan Nazarbayev’s 80th anniversary, the city authorities arranged celebratory firework on the embankment of the Ishim River. The remaining activities has been either canceled because of coronavirus restrictions or held online. Fireworks amidst the pandemic drew criticism[8] and outrage among Kazakhstanis.

Also, a monument was erected to the former Kazakh president in Nur-Sultan in an educational institution named in his honor. The unveiling of the Monument at the building of the National Defense University named after the first president took place a few days before Nazarbayev’s birthday[9].

Photo: Informburo / Akorda

National day of mourning

President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared July 13 as a day of national mourning honoring COVID-19 victims. Flags at the buildings were flown at half-mast; the broadcasting of entertainment television and radio channels was suspended; the official website of the Kazakh President turned into a black and white[10].

Kazakh Foreign Ministry comments on the “unknown pneumonia”

The Chinese Embassy in Kazakhstan has revised its statement on “unknown pneumonia” after consulting with the Kazakh Health Minister Aleksey Tsoi, Deputy Foreign Minister Yerzhan Ashikbayev reported a briefing on July 15.

Ashikbayev said that following the negotiations, both sides agreed to report things objectively and avert sweeping narration.

According to him, after the statement got published, the Chinese Embassy had a phone call with the Kazakh Health Minister, who explained how the country is tallying COVID-19 data.

On July 10, the Chinese Embassy in Kazakhstan warned its citizens in the country of the “unknown pneumonia” outbreak that is potentially deadlier than Covid-19.

Mass disturbance in two regions of Kazakhstan

On the night of July 21, in the village of Shornak in the Turkestan region, an everyday dispute between Kazakh and Uzbek young local residents escalated into a fight[11]. There was a mutual rock-pelting. The brawl was put to a quick end by the police. Three residents and a police officer had been injured. Several houses and cars had been damaged in the fighting. Police have instituted a pre-trial investigation on the facts of disorderly conduct and violence against police. Both parties to the conflict had been detained and arrested.

On the night of July 23, a five-year-old girl disappeared in the city of Satpayev, Karaganda region[12]. A group of volunteers has been helping the police department in the search. The had searched both the steppe and the courtyards of apartment buildings.

The child was found in one of the apartments of a multi-story building. The girl is now at the hospital. The suspect has been detained, but several dozen people demanded that the suspect be handed over to them. To suppress the riots, law enforcement forces were pulled into place.

The unrest in Satpayev lasted all night. Some eyewitnesses report the crowd tried to lynch a man suspected in the child abduction and first blocked the front door to the place he lives in, and then proceeded to the local police building. The police said that after finding a child, they initiated appropriate proceedings under the articles of “Abduction” and “Rape”.

President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev held a meeting with his office, akims of the Karaganda and Turkestan regions, heads of law enforcement agencies to discuss the two incidents in Shornak and Satpayev. The situation in both places has stabilized.

Russia abandons the Balkhash radar station in Kazakhstan

On July 24, the Federation Council approved a law denouncing the agreement on the use of Kazakhstan’s Balkhash center within the Russian missile attack warning system[13].

The unit has been in operation since 1973. In the last six years, the Russian Ministry of Defense has adopted four modern Voronezh-type radars at once. They are located near Armavir, Orsk, Barnaul, and Irkutsk. Balkhash, therefore, is no longer needed. The property belonging to Russia will be transferred to its territory.


KYRGYZSTAN


Epidemiological situation

In early July, the panic broke out in the capital, as most of the hospitals in Bishkek for patients with COVID-19 and pneumonia faced a deficiency in the reception capacity. People haven’t been able to get ahold of the ambulance. Oxygen concentrators and artificial lung ventilation devices had been in short supply. Volunteers gathered in groups to help the patients. 

The Health Ministry has been setting new records daily with their reports in July. By July 17, Kyrgyzstan for the first time reported a realistic death toll: 25,000 confirmed cases and 785 deaths[14]. On that day, the Republican headquarters has decided to include pneumonia cases in official Covid-19 data, which explains the surge in figures.

The situation with COVID-19 in Bishkek stabilized by the end of July. The panic has subsided; the medics have appeared on the drugstore shelves; the market has been injected with oxygen concentrators. This has slowed the rise in the number of new cases and deaths. Visits to temporary hospitals in Bishkek have dropped. While the situation in Bishkek stabilizes, the country’s regions face a crisis-ridden coronavirus situation. By all accounts, the regions now encounter the Bishkek scenario.

As of July 31, Kyrgyzstan reports 35,805 cases of coronavirus and community-acquired pneumonia, whereas 25,526 has recovered and 1, 379 died[15].

COVID -19 control measures

Despite the skyrocketing COVID-19 numbers by late June, Kyrgyzstan has not returned to stern quarantine restrictions and a state of emergency. Experts say the government feared the economic repercussions of reinforcing the lockdown[16].

In early July, the authorities conceded the dearth of hospital beds and ventilators and opted to deploy day hospitals to ease the burden on hospitals.

Demise in one of the day hospitals in Bishkek. Photo: Kaktus Media

On July 1, Bishkek city administration has enhanced the quarantine rules[17]. Nightclubs, karaoke, bars, and banquet halls are closed in the city, along with children’s playgrounds, football pitches, and bike rentals. Canteens work from 8 am to 8 pm only, while supermarkets and shopping centers transitioned to new working hours from 7 am to 7 pm. All city markets are daily from 6 am to 5 pm.

On July 3, the Osh city authorities also instituted additional restrictions. For example, Friday prayers in mosques, mass celebrations, and the work of entertainment facilities were suspended for an indefinite period, while the work of markets is banned two days a week[18].

Later, on July 9, the republican headquarters announced that it’ll temporarily halt the public transport running between the country’s regions and cities[19]. The coronavirus restrictions will be in place pending an improvement of the epidemiological situation in the country’s regions.

National day of mourning

On July 30, Kyrgyzstan marked the National Mourning Day honoring the COVID-19 victims in the country. Earlier, the Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov signed a decree on this[20].

Memorial ceremonies were held throughout the country; flags at the buildings of diplomatic and consular missions abroad were flown at half-mast.

At the “Ata-Beyit” memorial complex on July 30, President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, Speaker of Parliament Dastan Dzhumabekov, Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Gulbara Kaliyeva, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Raimberdi Duishenbiyev and Supreme DUMK Mufti Maksat Toktomushev paid tribute to the victims.

Memorial ceremony at the Ata-Beyit memorial complex. Photo: president.kg

Resuming international flights

From August 1, Kyrgyzstan plans to resume flight operations with four countries – Russia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, and the UAE. Flights could be carried out with the Health Ministry’s algorithm designed for charter flights. Air traffic with other countries is scheduled to resume in September, as soon as the epidemiological situation permits. Kyrgyzstan has resumed its domestic flights on June 8[21].

Azimzhan Askarov dies

On July 25, the human rights activist Askarov, who was serving a life sentence on charges of organizing mass riots during the 2010 events in Osh, has died from pneumonia in a prison clinic 47 in Bishkek[22]

Convicted on a number of charges, including complicity in murder, fomenting inter-ethnic discord, and hostage-taking related to 2010 ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan, Askarov served a life sentence and spent about 10 years behind bars.

Relatives feared that his grave in Kyrgyzstan might get vandalized. Askarov was buried in Uzbekistan on July 31. The day before the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry had authorized the release of Askarov’s body to a neighboring country.

askarov
тимур карпов фергана
Photo: Timur Karpov / Fergana

Azimzhan Askarov’s case is one of the most notorious in the history of independent Kyrgyzstan. In 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee found that Askarov had been arbitrarily detained and held in inhuman conditions. Askarov was also subjected to torture and ill-treatment and had been denied an opportunity to decorously prepare his defense.

In 2015, while already behind bars, Askarov became a laureate of the American State Department’s Human Rights Defender Prize. Following is a highly negative reaction of the official Bishkek who said the State Department’s actions are “an unfriendly gesture” and in response denounced the intergovernmental agreement on cooperation signed by Kyrgyzstan and the United States in 1993.

Over 40 political parties had chosen to run in the elections

Political parties in Kyrgyzstan gear up for parliamentary elections scheduled for October 4.

44 political parties have confirmed their intention to participate in the upcoming autumn electoral race. But only those who fulfill all the requirements of the electoral law would be able to run, in particular, once the party is approved in elections based on the party lists[23].

Among them are political parties that had repeatedly run in parliamentary elections before and had been voted for (Ata Meken, Respublika, SDPK, Bir Bol, Ar-Namys, Butun Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyzstan and Party of Communists of Kyrgyzstan). But there are also those who had been voted for only at the local governmental level – Zamandash, Uluu Kyrgyzstan, and Mekenim Kyrgyzstan.

Apart from old ones, recently formed Birimdik, Birik, Social Democrats and Chon Kazat have decided to run in the upcoming elections.


TAJIKISTAN


Epidemiological situation

COVID-19 situation in Tajikistan has not been as dreadful as in its neighboring countries in July. As of the evening of July 30, the country reported a total of 7366 confirmed coronavirus cases[24]. The daily increase in virus cases averages 40 new cases. The death toll in Tajikistan since the start of the outbreak is 60. 1,121 people are treated at home, while 92 are in hospitals under medical supervision.

COVID -19 control measures

Tajikistan has introduced a mandatory mask-wearing on July 7[25]. One can get fined 116 to 290 somoni (11 to 28 US dollars) for not wearing a mask.

Tajikistan has introduced a mandatory mask-wearing on July 7. Photo: CABAR.asia

Irrespective of the easing of coronavirus restrictions across the country, Tajikistan enacts laws such as mandatory mask-wearing and a prison term of 5 to 10 years for the malignant act of spreading infectious diseases[26].

International flights resume

Tajikistan has resumed flight operations with the UAE since July 21[27]. Passenger flights to and from Dubai vary depending on whether the passenger is a visitor traveling or a citizen or resident returning to Dubai.

Tajikistan is also willing to resume regular flights with Russia. The exact date is not yet known. Earlier, the Russian aviation authorities gave the clearance for the increase in charter flights to repatriate Tajik citizens from Russia[28].

The Muslim Brotherhood trial

In July, the Supreme Court of Tajikistan began to hear the case of 116 persons suspected of involvement in the Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwān al-Muslimīn) foreign terrorist organization[29]. The hearing was held behind closed doors. 114 Tajiks and two foreigners are in the dock.

The arrests of alleged Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers in Tajikistan started in January. In 2006, by the decision of the Tajik Supreme Court, the Muslim Brotherhood was added to the list of proscribed organizations in the country. The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 in Egypt, and later some of its leaders came to power in this Middle Eastern country. 

Russian citizens allowed to depart Tajikistan by car

In July, Russian citizens, who had been stranded for several weeks in Tajikistan waiting for the borders to open to return to Russia by private vehicles, had been finally granted a permit to pass through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan[30].

Those allowed to leave are mostly people with dual nationality – holding Russian and Tajik passports. They had traveled to the Tajik-Uzbek border in mid-June on their private vehicles, in hopes to get home, and had waited for several weeks until they were given the permit.

The Tajik Foreign Minister’s letter states that 686 holders of Russian passports can leave the country. The terms have been agreed; the Russian authorities have talked to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan on transit arrangements.

Tajikistan to restrict electricity supply

Tajikistan will soon impose a restriction on the supply of electricity[31]. The government has been obliged to make cuts to avoid electricity shortages of electricity during the autumn and winter months.

The reason cited for restricting the electricity supply in the summer is the water shortage. According to official figures, in the fall and winter of 2019-2020, too little snow fell in the formation area of the Vakhsh and Pyanj rivers, amounting to barely 50 percent of the volume in previous years. 

Tajik Foreign Ministry urges China to fight “provocative” border articles

Tajik First Deputy Foreign Minister Khusrav Noziri held a virtual meeting with the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Dushanbe Liu Bin[32]. Noziri stressed the occurrence of biased coverage on the matter of border between the two states by Chinese media.

In mid-July, the Chinese media reprinted the article “Tajikistan initiated the transfer of its lands to China and the lost Pamir mountains had been returned to their true owner.” The article says that at the end of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), under pressure from the West, China lost some of its historical territories. Some of them remain under the neighboring states’ control, including the Pamirs. It became impossible to return them following the collapse of the USSR.


TURKMENISTAN


Epidemiological situation

There has been not a single case of coronavirus infection officially confirmed in Turkmenistan. At the same time, an increasing number of patients with coronavirus symptoms are admitted to national hospitals[33]. They all are diagnosed with pneumonia. Cemetery workers and funeral services employees report a sharp increase in the number of burials. Many attribute it to the spread of COVID-19 in the country[34].

The country’s authorities deny the coronavirus presence, fail to provide official data on coronavirus cases, and do not make any official statement. Turkmen activists started a website listing the COVID-19 casualties in Turkmenistan. They seek to inform the public by publishing unofficial statistics on the coronavirus death toll in the country, including the names, ages, addresses, and other details of people that died[35].

COVID -19 control measures

Turkmen authorities took unprecedented measures in July in attempts to avert the spread of infectious diseases.

Ashgabat, July 15, 2020. Photo: Vyacheslav Sargsyan / Reuters

The country has obliged the mask-wearing, while also suspending the work of large malls, markets, theaters, parks, service enterprises, sports facilities until August 1. Restaurants, canteens and other catering outlets work for takeout only. The public also needs to practice social distancing of 2 meters in crowded places[36]. The railway has been halted from 16 to 23 July without explanation, and domestic air traffic was limited.

WHO mission to Turkmenistan

The long-delayed WHO mission to Turkmenistan, initially set for early May 2020, had been postponed because Ashgabat has refused to send an invitation to the organization representatives. Five experts, thereby, arrived in the republic in early July. The delegation said they plan to meet with officials[37]. But just before the experts arrived, President Garbanguly Berdimuhamedov put the country’s government on leave, and then he himself went on vacation.

Photo: Hans Kluge Twitter

Instead of the country’s authorities, Turkmen doctors went on talks with the WHO experts. They had shown the delegation exemplary medical facilities. According to several reports, prior to the mission’s visit, the health workers were instructed to reduce the number of patients in each wing to seven or eight. During a July 15 briefing, Mission Leader Catherine Smallwood said the experts had visited several hospitals on a pre-agreed schedule. She did not confirm whether there are cases of coronavirus in Turkmenistan.

Turkmen Health Minister orders mask-wearing to combat dust

On July 13, Turkmenistan’s Ministry of Health and Medical Industry published an announcement on the TDH state news agency’s website, warning that air concentration of dust exceeds the norm by 21%[38]. The exact figures are not reported.

The Ministry, therefore, recommended that the public wear face masks “to prevent adverse effects of weather conditions on the body while on the street and in public places.” The authorities did not, however, warn the public on the danger of the coronavirus spread.

Earlier on that day, Turkmenistan announced the mandatory mask-wearing on the streets.

President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov was first shown on local television wearing a mask while fishing all alone in mid-July. Local media agencies stress that the president put on a mask to shield from “dust infested with viruses”.

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Detention of activists in Istanbul

On July 19, Turkmen citizens arranged to hold a rally outside of the Turkmen consulate in Istanbul, demanding the president’s resignation, condemning the corruption and the state efforts to conceal the truth about the coronavirus, among others[39]. The activists also intended to request the consulate to exchange expired passports for new ones (as provided by the law on migration) and let those with valid documents leave for their homeland to support their loved ones. Hundreds of Turkmen citizens intended to participate.

Given the scale of the demonstration, the Turkish authorities had banned the rally invoking the coronavirus – induced restrictions. The Turkish police started detaining participants long before the rally started. More than 80 Turkmen citizens were detained on that day. As it turns out, the Turkmen consulate had sent a complaint to the Turkish authorities in advance, indicating the names of five activists who allegedly interfered with the work of Turkmen diplomats and threatened them.

Almost all detainees had been released after 4–5 hours. Only 29-year-old Dursoltan Taganova, known as one of the leaders of the Turkish branch of the recently formed opposition movement Democratic Choice of Turkmenistan, remained in custody. Her name was mentioned in the consul’s complaint. Taganova’s lawyer says the consulate’s claims had not been confirmed. However, her documents(like of many Turkmens in Istanbul) have expired and she faces deportation.


UZBEKISTAN


Epidemiological situation

Over half of Uzbekistan’s COVID-19 statistics had been recorded in July, whilst the republic sets a new record in the number of coronavirus cases each passing day. Uzbekistan, like its neighbors, at first assertively handling the pandemic, lost this battle in the middle of summer. People no longer trust statistics; there is a deficiency in the reception capacity in hospitals; the country has returned to lockdown[40]. Uzbekistan recorded an increase in pneumonia cases, which are not officially ascribed to coronavirus. 

Uzbekistan sets new records in the daily increase of coronavirus cases. Photo: podrobno.uz

The country also faced deficiency in the reception capacity in hospitals. Back in early July, at a briefing, Khabibulla Akilov from Special Republican Commission said that the Health Ministry had exhausted its resources, and there were no places left in hospitals for coronavirus patients[41]

By July 31, the total number of coronavirus cases rose to 23,773, with 14,204 recovered and 9,430 patients in treatment. The death toll is 139 people[42].

COVID-19 control measures

From July 10 to August 15 (with a possible extension), the movement of vehicles will be again restricted, while the public is being encouraged to refrain from going to work and to use online mode wherever practical. Weddings and public events are mostly banned, clothing markets, food outlets, gyms, preschool educational institutions, and sanatoriums had been closed[43].

People over the age of 65 are not allowed to go out in public. Assembling in groups larger than three on streets or elsewhere is prohibited.

Travel between Karakalpakstan, Tashkent, and regions of the country, including taxis, is prohibited (with the exception of movement between Tashkent and Tashkent region).

Riot in the quarantine complex

On July 8-9, there has been a riot in the Urtasaray quarantine complex[44]. Attributable to the riot is the fact that people have been held in container camps for 30 days, and while the established period of their stay has already come to an end, they are not allowed to go home.

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The “Urtasaray” quarantine complex in the Yukorichirchik district of the Tashkent region was built on an area of ​​55 hectares. Urtasaray is the largest quarantine zone in Uzbekistan. The facility, consisting of 24 blocks and 3467 four-bed containers, according to official data, can accommodate over 20 thousand people.

Residents of Karakalpakstan blocked the road

On July 20, nearly five hundred residents of Abai, Kupolpo, and Altynsai villages in Karakalpakstan’s Beruniy region for five hours blocked the A-380 main road re-routing through the area[45].

What drove residents of auls to take such a desperate act was that irrigation water ceased to flow to the people’s private plots while the rice fields of the district head enjoyed uninterrupted water supply. Protesters had reopened the road only following the negotiations with the head of the district.

Chief District Officers apologize

Hokims of all 11 Tashkent districts addressed the residents to apologize for underperforming in the fight against coronavirus[46].

Khokim of the Sergeli district Bakhtiyor Shamuratov apologizes live on the Oilaviy TV channel

The chief district officers also spoke about the ongoing activities to overcome COVID-19. According to them, apart from family polyclinics, separate COVID centers have been established in each district and equipped with the essential equipment. All districts had been stocked with a three-month supply of medicines and foodstuffs.

Earlier, Tashkent khokim (the administration head) Jakhongir Artykhodjaev and Uzbekistan’s Health Minister Alisher Shadmanov were reprimanded by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev for “inadequate work to avert the spread of coronavirus”[47].

Uzbekistan resumes the WTO accession talks

The working group on Uzbekistan’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) held its fourth meeting on July 7 via videoconference[48]. The prior expert meeting took place in the fall of 2005, pausing the negotiations.

At the fourth meeting, Uzbekistan has been represented by Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade Sardor Umurzakov. He discussed the prospects of the country’s socio-economic development in the context of accession to the WTO.

Uzbekistan applied to join the WTO in 1994 and participated in three working group meetings. The tragic Andijan events brought this process to a standstill in October 2005. The country authorities, nonetheless, persisted in adjusting their legislation to meet the organization’s requirements, and in 2017 resumed the accession talks.

In July last year, the Permanent Representative of Uzbekistan to the UN in Geneva, Ulugbek Lapasov, handed over to the WTO Director-General Roberto Azavedo a memorandum on the republic’s foreign trade regime, which marked the beginning of the country’s official entry into the trade organization.


CENTRAL ASIA


China and Central Asia Hold an Online Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

At Beijing’s initiative, the foreign ministers of Central Asian countries held the inaugural meeting with the PRC’s Director-General of Foreign Affairs. The “Central Asia – China” (C + C5) dialogue was held on June 16 via video conference. The virtual meeting was chaired by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and attended by Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov, Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Chingiz Aidarbekov, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin, and Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov.

Photo: Uzbekistan’s Foreign Ministry

The parties had discussed stepping up the cooperation to overcome COVID-19, as well as join hands to boost economic recovery amidst the pandemic.[49] The parties agreed that additional efforts are necessary to facilitate trade and investment. Meanwhile, China expressed a commitment to support Central Asian partners in increasing their agricultural productivity, fostering the capture of higher-value-added, and extending the supply of high-quality and organic products from Central Asia to the Chinese market. The ministers had also discussed deepening cooperation in fighting terrorism, extremism, and separatism, stressing the importance of advancing the peace process in Afghanistan.

Eid al-Adha celebrations in Central Asia

The 2020 pandemic has changed the way various religious groups in the world celebrate major events and holidays[50]. Islam was no exception to that: fasting in the month of Ramadan and the celebration of Eid al-Fitr differed from ordinary practice. The hope that the situation stabilizes by Eid al-Adha had turned in vain – almost all countries in Central Asia are forced to comply with strict quarantine rules. That changes the way Muslims celebrate one of their two main holidays.

The Central Asian countries celebrated this year’s Eid in a restrictive environment without the traditional collective prayer.

The Spiritual Administration of Muslims in Kazakhstan has launched a special website for online sacrifice. After placing an order via WhatsApp, a person receives a photo and video report of the completion of the ritual sacrifices[51].

Uzbekistan, by the decision of a special republican commission, halted the movement of all vehicles, including taxis, on July 31 and August 1-2.

New transport corridor Iran – Afghanistan – Tajikistan – Kyrgyzstan

The Iran-Afghanistan-Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan transport corridor has been established as a shortcut for transiting goods from Iran’s southern ports to Central Asian countries, the Iranian news agency Mehr reports.[52]

The new corridor was launched by the Iranian Customs Administration (IRICA) in cooperation with the International Road Transport Union and Economic Cooperation Organization under the Convention on the International Transport of Goods.

The corridor was officially launched after two-stage pilot transportation. According to the IRICA Director of Transit Bureau Mostafa Ayati, Iran has sent the first two cargoes to Kyrgyzstan from the Iranian port of Shahid Rajaee in the southern city of Bandar Abbas. Five more trucks were sent to Tajikistan. This port is one of the 100 largest ports of the world.


This material has been prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial board or donor.


[1] Ад пуст, все смерти здесь. Новая Газета. https://novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/07/13/86254-ad-pust-vse-smerti-zdes

[2] Цой заверяет о постепенной стабилизации ситуации с коронавирусом, но просит еще денег. Vlast. https://vlast.kz/novosti/40892-coj-zaveraet-o-postepennoj-stabilizacii-situacii-s-koronavirusom-no-prosit-ese-deneg.html

[3] Число подтвержденных случаев коронавируса в Казахстане превысило 89 тысяч. Vlast. https://vlast.kz/novosti/41037-cislo-podtverzdennyh-slucaev-koronavirusa-v-kazahstane-prevysilo-89-tysac.html

[4] В Казахстане продлевают карантин на две недели, чтобы “закрепить положительный эффект”. Настоящее время. https://www.currenttime.tv/a/kazakhstan-prodlili-karantin-na-dve-nedeli/30754681.html

[5] Карантин по коронавирусу в Казахстане продлили еще на две недели. Интерфакс. https://www.interfax.ru/world/719380

[6] Ношение маски на улице стало обязательным в Казахстане. Tengrinews. https://tengrinews.kz/kazakhstan_news/noshenie-maski-na-ulitse-stalo-obyazatelnyim-v-kazahstane-409910/

[7] Казахстан снова планирует международное авиасообщение. С какими странами? Forbes. https://forbes.kz/process/kazahstan_snova_planiruet_mejdunarodnoe_aviasoobschenie_s_kakimi_stranami/

[8] «Плевок в лицо народа» и «пляски на костях». Реакция на салют в день 80-летия Назарбаева. Радио свобода. https://rus.azattyq.org/a/kazakhstan-social-media-after-nazarbayevs-birthday-fireworks/30711135.html

[9] Новый памятник Назарбаеву открыли в канун его 80-летия в столице. Радио свобода. https://rus.azattyq.org/a/30704100.html

[10] Казахстан объявил 13 июля национальным днем траура по жертвам COVID-19. РБК. https://www.rbc.ru/society/08/07/2020/5f05e0979a7947d97bbb109d

[11] Токаев провел совещание по поводу беспорядков в Сатпаеве. Liter. https://liter.kz/tokaev-provel-soveshhanie-po-situaczii-v-karagandinskoj-i-turkestanskoj-oblastyah/  

[12] Токаев провел совещание по поводу беспорядков в Сатпаеве. Liter. https://liter.kz/tokaev-provel-soveshhanie-po-situaczii-v-karagandinskoj-i-turkestanskoj-oblastyah/  

[13] Россия отказалась от противоракетного радара “Балхаш” в Казахстане. Life. https://life.ru/p/1336261

[14] ЭПИДЕМИЯ. Хронология. Akipress. http://kg.akipress.org/news:1635395?from=eco&place=nowread

[15] Коронавирус и пневмония в Кыргызстане. Число больных и карта распространения. 24.kg. https://24.kg/obschestvo/150634_koronavirus_ipnevmoniya_vkyirgyizstane_chislo_bolnyih_ikarta_rasprostraneniya/

[16] Решение президента Кыргызстана: парадокс в период пандемии. Радио Азаттык. https://rus.azattyk.org/a/30701765.html

[17] Установлен новый режим работы в Бишкеке (уточнено). Штаб КР по COVID-19. https://t.me/RshKRCOV/5784

[18] В регионах Кыргызстана обостряется ситуация с COVID-19. Радио Азаттык. https://rus.azattyk.org/a/30711071.html

[19] Движение общественного транспорта между областями Кыргызстана приостановят «до улучшения ситуации» с коронавирусом. Kloop. https://kloop.kg/blog/2020/07/09/dvizhenie-obshhestvennogo-transporta-mezhdu-oblastyami-kyrgyzstana-priostanovyat-do-uluchsheniya-situatsii-s-koronavirusom/

[20] Фото – В «Ата-Бейите» прошли поминальные мероприятия в память о кыргызстанцах, ставших жертвами коронавирусной инфекции. President.kg. http://www.president.kg/ru/sobytiya/17234_foto___vata_beyite_proshli_pominalnie_meropriyatiya_vpamyat_okirgizstancah_stavshih_ghertvami_koronavirusnoy_infekcii

[21] Кыргызстан готов с 1 августа возобновить авиарейсы с четырьмя странами. Kaktus Media. https://kaktus.media/doc/417979_kyrgyzstan_gotov_s_1_avgysta_vozobnovit_aviareysy_s_chetyrmia_stranami.html

[22] В Узбекистане похоронили правозащитника Азимжана Аскарова. Чем он был известен. Настоящее время. https://www.currenttime.tv/a/askarov-funeral/30759210.html

[23] Выборы-2020: Имидж и уровень партий, идущих в Жогорку Кенеш. Platforma.kg. https://platforma.kg/our-priorities/election/vybory-2020-imidzh-i-uroven-partij-idushhih-v-zhogorku-kenesh/

[24]  Коронавирус в Таджикистане: за сутки число заразившихся увеличилось на 46 человек. Asia-Plus. https://www.asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/society/20200730/koronavirus-v-tadzhikistane-za-sutki-chislo-zarazivshihsya-uvelichilos-na-46-chelovek

[25] Поправки об обязательном ношении маски вступили в силу. Что говорят сторонники и противники? Радио Озоди. https://rus.ozodi.org/a/30713638.html

[26] В Таджикистане пока не выписано ни одного штрафа за нарушение «масочного режима». Почему? Asia-Plus. https://asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/laworder/20200720/v-tadzhikistane-do-segodnyashnego-dnya-ne-vipisano-ni-odnogo-shtrafa-za-narushenie-masochnogo-rezhima

[27]  flydubai возобновляет рейсы в Душанбе

 Asia-Plus. https://www.asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/society/20200717/flydubai-vozobnovlyaet-reisi-v-dushanbe

[28] Таджикистан и Россия готовы к возобновлению регулярного авиасообщения. Asia-Plus. https://www.asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/society/20200727/14-reisov-v-nedelyu-budet-vipolnyat-tadzhikistan-iz-rossii

[29]  В Таджикистане начался суд над предполагаемыми последователями «Братьев-мусульман». Радио Озоди. https://rus.ozodi.org/a/30714755.html

[30] Гражданам России разрешили выехать на машинах на родину из Таджикистана, несмотря на закрытые границы. Настоящее время. https://www.currenttime.tv/a/russia-tajikistan/30711717.html

[31] Таджикистан: лимит на электроэнергию возвращается? Радио Озоди. https://rus.ozodi.org/a/30753620.html

[32] Таджикистан призвал Китай бороться с «провокационными» статьями о границе. Lenta.ru. https://lenta.ru/news/2020/07/24/tadjikistan/

[33] Пневмония в Туркменистане: Медработники едва успевают перевозить умерших в морг. Радио Азатлык. https://rus.azathabar.com/a/30738843.html  

[34] На кладбищах Туркменистана увеличивается количество новых могил. Радио Азатлык. https://rus.azathabar.com/a/30759091.html

[35] Активисты создали независимый портал для учета жертв COVID-19 в Туркменистане. Радио Азатлык. https://rus.azathabar.com/a/30746773.html

[36] В Туркменистане ввели карантинные ограничения, больницы переполнены. Настоящее время. https://www.currenttime.tv/a/v-turkmenistane-vvodyat-karantinnye-ogranichenia-covida-v-strane-net/30740957.html

[37]  Борьба с пустотой: почему жителей Туркменистана обязали носить маски. Известия. https://iz.ru/1035856/igor-karmazin/borba-s-pustotoi-pochemu-zhitelei-turkmenistana-obiazali-nosit-maski

[38] Минздрав обнаружил в воздухе пыли на 21% выше нормы и призвал надевать маски. Хроника Туркменистана. https://www.hronikatm.com/2020/07/coronadust/

[39]  Прекратить преследования туркменских гражданских активистов! Мемориал. https://memohrc.org/ru/news_old/prekratit-presledovaniya-turkmenskih-grazhdanskih-aktivistov

[40] Как Узбекистан провалил борьбу с пандемией вслед за соседями. Vlast. https://vlast.kz/obsshestvo/41040-kak-uzbekistan-provalil-borbu-s-pandemiej-vsled-za-sosedami.html

[41] В Узбекистане не осталось мест в больницах для коронавирусных больных. Радио Озоди. https://rus.ozodi.org/a/30715406.html

[42] Коронавирус в Узбекистане: главное на 31 июля. Радио Озоди. https://uz.sputniknews.ru/society/20200731/14678431/Koronavirus-v-Uzbekistane-glavnoe-na-31-iyulya.html  

[43]  Карантинные ограничения продлены до 15 августа. Gazeta.uz. https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2020/07/26/restrictions-go-on/

[44] Обитатели самой большой карантинной зоны в Узбекистане устроили бунт. Озодлик. https://rus.ozodlik.org/a/30716913.html

[45] Жители одного из районов Каракалпакстана, оставшись без поливной воды, перекрыли магистральную дорогу. Озодлик. https://rus.ozodlik.org/a/30739883.html

[46] Хокимы районов Ташкента извинились за недостаточную подготовку к пандемии. Газета.уз. https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2020/07/24/apologies/

[47] Президент раскритиковал состояние работ по противодействию коронавирусу в городе Ташкенте и Ташкентской области и предупредил ответственных лиц. Uza.uz. https://uza.uz/ru/politics/prezident-raskritikoval-sostoyanie-rabot-po-protivodeystviyu-15-07-2020

[48] Узбекистан возобновил встречи по ВТО. Газета.уз. https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2020/07/08/wto/

[49] Состоялась 1-я министерская встреча «Центральная Азия-Китай» в формате видеоконференции. Посольство КР в КНР. https://mfa.gov.kg/ru/dm/posolstvo-kyrgyzskoy-respubliki-v-kitayskoy-narodnoy-respublike/news/7632

[50] Курбан-байрам – 2020: как Центральная Азия встретит один из главных праздников ислама? News-Asia. http://www.news-asia.ru/view/religion/14061

[51] Как отметят курбан-байрам жители центральной азии в условиях пандемии. ИАЦ-ЦЕНТР. https://ia-centr.ru/publications/bez-namaza-i-zhertvoprinosheniy-kak-otmetyat-kurban-bayram-zhiteli-tsentralnoy-azii-v-usloviyakh-pan/

[52] Иран открыл транспортный коридор в Кыргызстан, отправлены грузы. Sputnik.kg. https://ru.sputnik.kg/economy/20200730/1049174036/iran-kyrgyzstan-koridor-gruz-perevozka.html

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