The beginning of March 2020 in Central Asia was marked by continued courtesy meetings between the countries’ authorities along with persisting rallies and public events. The focus then shifted by mid-March to the spread of coronavirus infection. March is remembered among others for the unprecedented security measures, borders closure, declaration of a state of emergency, general quarantine, depreciation of national currencies, first deaths from coronavirus. The analytical platform CABAR.asia provides a brief overview of the most significant events in the region over the past month.
On March 1, anti-government rallies were held in Almaty, Nur-Sultan and several other cities of Kazakhstan in memory of the activist Dulat Agadil who died in detention shortly before. Among protestors were representatives of various political associations, including the oppositional Oyan Qazaqstan, the DVK movement, and the Koshe party.
This would have been the first rally that united several opposition movements at once. It ended before it even started, however. Almaty had the highest number of mass detentions. Among those taken into police custody were innocent bystanders, as well as visitors of cafés and restaurants located in the area of the rally.
Civic activist Dulat Agadil was known for raising social issues and advocating for civil rights and freedoms. The activist has recurrently voiced demands to release political prisoners, including Max Bokayev and Aron Atabek. For that, he was placed under administrative detention. Criminal proceedings were instituted against Agadil for the contempt of court, insulting a judge and participants of a court session. Due to the failure to appear and evasion of сourt’s investigative actions, the preventive measure for him had been changed to custody.
On February 25, Nur-Sultan police reported that activist Dulat Agadil died in a pre-trial detention center due to alleged heart failure. The representative of the US State Department, the British Embassy in Kazakhstan and the director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights called on Nur-Sultan to ensure a thorough and transparent investigation.
Dmitry Medvedev’s visit
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, arrived in Kazakhstan on March 5, 2020. The next day, Medvedev met with the country’s leadership, including the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
Dmitry Medvedev and Kassym-Jomart Tokayev discussed the state of the comprehensive strategic cooperation between the two countries and pressing issues on the regional and international agenda. Medvedev noted Russia’s interest in significant political processes taking place in Kazakhstan. He also highlighted the vital development stage both the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan are at. Tokayev, for his part, asserted that the two countries should not only help each other as partners but also learn from certain past development stages.
The Kazakh President congratulated Medvedev upon his appointment to a senior position. For his part, Medvedev noted the symbolism of his visit to Kazakhstan in his new position.
Tenge rate collapse
The collapse of the ruble and oil prices triggered a fall in Central Asian currencies. Bureaux de change in Kazakhstan on March 9 was selling dollars at 398 tenges and then stopped selling altogether. Against the backdrop of the collapse, a meeting was held under the chairmanship of the Kazakh president, Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev. The Rapid Response Working Group, led by the country’s prime minister, was created to develop an anti-crisis action plan.
While efforts have been made, on March 16, by the end of bidding on the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange, the dollar rate amounted to 434.59 tenges. The United States dollar has risen in price by 28.97 tenges since March 13, and by 57.81 tenges in a month. Certain exchange offices even rated one USD for up to 450 tenges. Kazakhstan’s Central Bank has declared its intention to contribute to an equilibrium rate in conformity with the policy of a free-floating exchange rate and inflation targeting. At the same time, the National Bank reserved the right to cushion exchange rate fluctuations, if necessary.
The depreciation of the Kazakh currency is taking place against the low oil prices, which fell below $32 per the Brent barrel, and the emergency in response to the coronavirus’ spread.
Foreign Policy Concept
On March 9, Head of State Kassym-Jomart Tokayev approved a new concept of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy for 2020–2030. The Kazakh Government was instructed to act on the implementation of the concept within three months. Control over the implementation of Tokayev’s decree is entrusted to the President’s administration.
The document contains 7 chapters and sets new goals and objectives of foreign policy. The concept emphasizes the need for Kazakhstan “to consolidate the status of a leading state in the Central Asian region” and promote the country’s international initiatives based on pragmatism. The strategic objective remains the same – to enter the thirty most developed countries in the world.
According to the document, Kazakhstan implements its foreign policy continuing the foreign policy of the first president, Elbasy Nursultan Nazarbayev, at a new stage in the country’s development. The implementation is also based on facilitating a stable, fair and democratic world order; equal integration into the global political, economic and humanitarian space; effective protection of the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of Kazakh citizens and compatriots living abroad.
Elbasy’s visit to Moscow
On March 10, 2020, the first president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, flew to Moscow, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and visited Lomonosov Moscow State University.
Kazakhstan’s first president noted the development of stable interstate relations between the two countries over the years of his work with Putin. Vladimir Putin, in turn, noted an ongoing successful development of strategic alliance in Russia-Kazakhstan relations.
Nursultan Nazarbayev and Vladimir Putin discussed partnerships within the Eurasian Economic Union. Nazarbayev drew attention to the fact that the principles of good neighborliness and alliance are preserved in Russia-Kazakhstan interaction. The head of the Russian state commended Nazarbayev for developing “his brainchild”, to which Putin referred not only to the establishment of modern Kazakhstan but also the first president – initiated Eurasian Economic Union.
Mukhtar Dzhakishev is released
On March 3, 2020, City Court No. 2 of Semey city approved the conditional release of Mukhtar Dzhakishev. On March 19, the ex-head of the national uranium mining company Kazatomprom was met by dozens of activists who lined up in two columns and chanted “Mukhtar!”, “Alga, Kazakhstan!”.
In 2010, Dzhakishev was found guilty under two articles of Kazakhstan’s Criminal Code: “appropriation or embezzlement of entrusted property of others” and “bribe-taking”. In 2012, he was sentenced again on charges of embezzlement, fraud, forgery of documents and abuse of power. He was sentenced to a total of 14 years in prison.
Mukhtar Dzhakishev repeatedly filed a request for parole but was refused because of not paying the state damages of 99.6 billion tenges, determined during a closed trial. According to some Kazakh human rights activists, Dzhakishev was prosecuted because of befriending a former banker and critic of the Kazakh authorities, Mukhtar Ablyazov, who left Kazakhstan in 2009.
Human rights activists have repeatedly called for the release of Mukhtar Dzhakishev, who have faced serious health issue. Kazakhstan’s International Bureau for Human Rights stated that there is a political component in the Dzhakishev case, and the authorities torture him with “a lack of health treatment”. Rallies demanding the release of Mukhtar Dzhakishev were recurrently held throughout the country.
For the first time, a woman leads the region in Kazakhstan
On March 28, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed a decree appointing Gulshara Abdykalikova as akim of the Kyzylorda region. Advisor to President Erlan Karin later remarked that Abdykalikova became the first woman to lead the region in the country.
Abdykalikova served as deputy prime minister of the country from February to August 2019 and was the chairman of the National Commission for Women, Family and Demographic Policy under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. From 2019 to 2020, she was a deputy of the Mazhilis (lower house of parliament) of the VI convocation and chairman of the Social and Cultural Development Committee.
Gulshara Abdykalikova often raised the problems of gender inequality and domestic violence. In 2019, she shamed men who abandon wives with children. Gulshara Abdykalikova regularly joins the forums dedicated to the protection of women’s rights.
General epidemiological situation
As of April 2, there were 402 cases of coronavirus infection confirmed in Kazakhstan. Coronavirus cases have been recorded in the following regions: Shymkent, Akmola, Aktobe, Almaty, Atyrau, East Kazakhstan, Zhambyl, West Kazakhstan, Karaganda, Kyzylorda, Mangystau, Pavlodar and North Kazakhstan.
Earlier on March 13, Health Minister Yelzhan Birtanov at a briefing in the Central Communications Service declared the first two cases of coronavirus in Almaty. The Kazakh citizens who came from Germany tested positive for COVID-19.
The press service of the President of Kazakhstan reported the proclamation of a state of emergency in Kazakhstan from March 16 to April 15 to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country. On March 15, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev decided to suspend the work of shopping centers, cinemas, theaters, exhibitions, and other public events. It was instructed to strengthen community policing, limit the functioning of major trade sites, as well as introduce quarantine and carry out large-scale sanitary and anti-epidemic measures. The president’s decree also introduces restrictions on entry to / exit from Kazakhstan.
With the proclamation of a state of emergency on March 16, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev addressed the people. The head of state noted that the state of emergency is proclaimed for the health of Kazakh citizens. The President said that the budget will allocate the money to purchase the required protective equipment. He emphasized that the state of emergency would not affect cargo transportation, border restrictions apply only to entry and exit of Kazakh and foreign citizens. The head of state urged the media to disseminate solely official information on the coronavirus and the population to take essential preventive measures.
On March 20, the first President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, appealed to Kazakh citizens to support the efforts of the country’s president and government. He compared the current time “with the beginning of the 90s, when it was really difficult for us” and added that if the crisis drags on, then ” the country and its citizens shall prepare for austerity.” Nazarbayev also proposed the creation of a republican fund, “which would accumulate funds of people who are willing and able to help the country in these difficult times”.
To prevent the spread of coronavirus to other cities, on March 19, the State Commission decided to declare quarantine in Nur-Sultan and Almaty, i.e. restrict the entry and exit of people and vehicles from these cities. Public transportation in the city will be limited during the day and halted at night. Almaty’s akim Bakytzhan Sagintayev in a singular appeal to residents said that there would be 27 roadblocks with patrol police, SOBR and the National Guard established at the entrance to the city. There are seven roadblocks around Nur Sultan.
Karaganda, Temirtau, Abai, Sarani, and Shakhtinsk will be under quarantine from March 30. It implies restrictions on entry and exit from these cities and restrictions on movement for residents.
On March 23, the Kazakh President instructed the government and akimats to suspend for three months the accrual of state property leases for small and medium-sized businesses from March 20, as well as raise funds and pay bonuses in the amount of 1 official salary to doctors, police officers, and other professionals. Tokayev also ordered a monthly payment of 42,500 tenges (about $ 95) to citizens who lost their income with the proclamation of a state of emergency in the country.
On March 30, the Kazakh government approved the level of payments to Kazakh doctors. According to the decree signed by the Prime Minister, doctors involved in anti-epidemic measures will receive 212.5 thousand to 850 thousand tenges ($476-1.9 thousand). The payments will commence in March. It envisaged payment of 33.8 billion tenges ($ 75.4 million) of financial assistance to 26 thousand country’s medical workers. Plus, the Labor Ministry should provide health and life insurance for medical workers. If one of them gets infected, single social assistance of 2 million tenges ($ 4.4 thousand) will be paid from the State Social Insurance Fund, in case of death – the amount would be 10 million tenges ($ 22.321 thousand).
Rally in support of the former deputy
On March 2, a rally was held in Bishkek in support of former Member of Parliament Sadyr Zhaparov. Near 2,000 supporters of the ex-deputy gathered in Ala-Too central square with several political demands, including the immediate release of Zhaparov.
22 people, three civilians, and 19 law enforcement officers sought medical treatment as a result of the violent dispersal of the demonstration. More than 160 people were taken to police stations after the riots.
The authorities detained the organizers of the protest. They are accused of provoking protesters to riots and attempting to forcibly seize power.
Sadyr Zhaparov was detained on March 25, 2017, on the Kyrgyz-Kazakh border. He was accused of taking a hostage, as well as financing a rally in Karakol, whose participants demanded the nationalization of the Kumtor gold mine. On August 2, a court sentenced a former deputy of the Jogorku Kenesh to 11.5 years in prison in a maximum-security penal colony.
Women’s March in Bishkek
On March 8, the Bishkek Feminist Initiatives planned to hold a solidarity march in Bishkek in honor of International Women’s Day. The event started off on Victory Square when unknown men in masks and national kalpaks attacked the march participants.
Police detained about 50 participants, along with journalists present at the march. Most of the detained march participants were released later on. The police said that the Feminalle and 8/365 social movements organized an unauthorized spontaneous rally in Bishkek, which had not been duly coordinated with the Akimat of the Sverdlovsk Region and the Bishkek City Hall.
After 2 days, a spontaneous rally was held in Bishkek on March 10 with about 800 participants. The protesters gathered against violence towards women and children. Activists decided to organize the event after the dispersal of the women’s march on March 8.
More overtly political demands voiced during the protest included the resignation of the Sverdlovsk police department’s leadership for violence on the women’s march, together with the investigation of the incident.
Earlier on March 5, the Pervomaisky District Court in Bishkek banned rallies and peaceful gatherings until July 1, 2020, including the Women’s March on March 8. Bishkek’s mayor and the Pervomaisky district administration were the ones to ask the court to ban peaceful gatherings. The mayor’s office said that a ban on rallies before July 1 was necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Officials also expressed concern about the rally in support of the prisoner ex-deputy Sadyr Zhaparov.
After some time, the Prosecutor General’s Office recognized the district courts’ decision to be unlawful. The supervisory authority found that the city hall’s decision contradicts the constitution and violates the rights of citizens to peaceful gatherings.
General epidemiological situation in Kyrgyzstan
On March 24, President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbai Jeenbekov signed decrees on declaring a state of exception in the cities of Bishkek, Osh, and Jalal-Abad, in Nookat and Kara-Suy districts of Osh region, as well as in Suzak district of Jalal-Abad region, in response to the epidemic of COVID-19. A state of emergency is proclaimed to prevent the spread of coronavirus to other territories of the Kyrgyz Republic. The state of exception is proclaimed from March 25 to April 15, 2020. Commandant offices were formed on the territories of the above cities and districts.
With the proclamation of a state of exception in certain cities and regions, Sooronbai Jeenbekov appealed on March 25. The President said that the state of exception is proclaimed in Kyrgyzstan due to non-compliance with the rules of the state of emergency. He stressed that the state of emergency in the country and the state of exception in certain territories will create som inconvenience and several restrictions in everyday life.
Earlier on March 22, by the decision of the Prime Minister Muhammedkaly Abylgaziev, a 1-month state of emergency was declared throughout the whole territory of Kyrgyzstan. Various measures have been taken to limit the spread of the virus. Among them are the closure of borders, the restriction of internal movements, the disinfection of streets and public places, and also quarantine for schoolchildren and university students.
The state of exception provides for many serious restrictions. The affected territories now have a special entry-exit regime, introduced curfew hour, special working-hour arrangements for businesses, restrictions for traffic, and special rules for the use of communications. The temperature of citizens, the availability of documents and the purpose of departure or entry are being measured and verified at the posts on the city’s entrance.
From March 18 to April 2, there have been 116 coronavirus cases confirmed on the territory of the Kyrgyz Republic. Coronavirus was found in Jalal-Abad, Osh, Batken, Chui and Naryn regions. The Health Ministry reported that 91 people have current active cases, while three people have recovered. The first coronavirus cases in Kyrgyzstan were found in the Suzak district of the Jalal-Abad region. Three locals tested positive for COVID-19 flew in from Saudi Arabia after a minor pilgrimage.
Extended deadline for filing tax returns
By the decision of the Republican Headquarters for the fight against coronavirus dated March 24, 2020, the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic extended the deadline for filing the Single Tax Return (STR) for individuals to September 1, 2o2o.
This was done to support taxpayers in the state of exception proclaimed in certain territories of the country to suppress the further spread of coronavirus in Kyrgyzstan.
The deadline for filing the tax return for individuals should have expired on April 1.
Postponement of significant events
On March 19, the Kyrgyz authorities announced the new dates for the population and housing censuses to be exactly one month later, from April 23 to May 1, 2020. Given the newly introduced state of exception, the census might get postponed for a much later term.
Local elections in several cities and villages of Kyrgyzstan were to be held in April 2019. On March 23, President Sooronbai Jeenbekov signed a decree postponing the election due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Parliamentary (Jogorku Kenesh) elections to be held on October 4, 2020, might also be compromised.
Loan repayments deferred
On March 19, Kyrgyzstan’s National Bank recommended that commercial banks defer loan repayment for at least three months. Also, in connection with the epidemic of coronavirus, it is prohibited to charge and levy commissions and other payments related to the revision of loan agreements; it is prohibited to impose and levy penalties, including for non-fulfillment of loan obligations; it is allowed not to worsen the category of loans when the contract terms are changed due to restrictions introduced with the epidemic.
On March 17, the Association of Markets in Kyrgyzstan has requested the government to defer loan repayments. Businessmen gave an example of sewing workshops that already suffer losses; when running out of fabrics and accessories, they cannot order new ones because of the closed border with China. The ban on mass events resulted in great losses of entertainment businesses. Goods of a prevalent number of exporters are stuck in China. The government asserted that measures to support businesses are under development.
A rise in the exchange rate
In Kyrgyzstan, the US dollar rose to 85 soms on March 19, although sold at 72 soms the morning of the same day. Meanwhile, the euro rose from 90 to 95 soms. The som fell following the collapse of the national currency in Russia and Kazakhstan.
In the evening of the same day, the National Bank has intervened by selling $ 3.7 million to restrain the growth of the dollar. It also claimed that there was no reason for the further decline of the som. The dollar exchange rate fell to 81.4 soms after that. Despite this, the American currency has risen in one day by almost 13 soms – from 73 to 85 soms.
In less than three months of 2020, the National Bank spent $ 199 million worth interventions. For comparison, 151 million were allocated for the whole of 2019.
On March 27, the International Monetary Fund reported that the IMF Executive Board allocated $ 120.9 million to Kyrgyzstan to combat the COVID-19. This is the first emergency IMF loan in the world since the pandemic.
In the fight against coronavirus, China also provided humanitarian assistance to Kyrgyzstan. Assistance from a neighboring state was transferred on March 25 at the Torugart checkpoint. 10 thousand respiratory masks, 100 thousand disposable masks, and one thousand personal protective equipment have been transferred to medical workers. 10 thousand masks were also handed over to the Chinese Embassy in Kyrgyzstan.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has already allocated 66 million soms ($ 905.6 thousand) to Kyrgyzstan, along with personal protective equipment. Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan will send $ 100 thousand to fight against coronavirus. The foundation also donated a mechanical ventilation device to the Republican Clinical Infectious Diseases Hospital in Bishkek. A COVID-19 fund replenished by local patrons has been formed within the country. Jeenbekov transferred his March salary to the fund.
Elections for the lower house of parliament
Tajikistan held elections for the lower house of parliament (Majlisi Namoyandagon) on March 1. The ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDPT) was the leader in Tajikistan’s parliamentary elections; it received 50.4% of the vote (12 parliament seats on the party list). The votes for the other parties were distributed as follows: Party of Economic Reforms – 16.6% (4 seats), Agrarian Party – 16.5% (4 seats), Democratic Party – 5.1% (1 seat), Socialist Party – 5.1% (1 mandate), Communist Party – 3.1%, Social Democratic Party (SDPT) – 0.32%.
A total of 4.24 million voters, or more than 86% of the total number, took part in the elections (the turnout in the 2015 parliamentary elections was 87.7%). 241 candidates were nominated for 63 seats. Of these, 176 candidates ran in 41 single-mandate constituencies, 65 ran on party lists. Among the registered candidates, 48 are women (20%). Around 230 international observers monitored the election.
In addition to parliamentary elections, deputies of regional, district and city majlises (councils) of people’s deputies were also elected on March 1. A total of 3.4 thousand polling stations were established for voting in the republic, another 39 polling stations were opened in the diplomatic missions of Tajikistan in 30 countries.
The Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan (SDPT) does not recognize the official results of the March 1 parliamentary elections, stated by the SDPT leader Rakhmatillo Zoyirov on his Facebook page. According to him, the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda (CEC) announced the preliminary voting results “after many hours of consultations and the adoption of President’s political decision”. He pointed out that the official results of the parliamentary elections have been altered three times within 12 hours before they were “read out”.
A rise in the exchange rate
The National Bank of Tajikistan has adjusted official exchange rates against somoni. The exchange rate of cash rubles in Tajik banks decreased by more than 10% due to the devaluation of the Russian currency with the collapse in oil prices.
On March 10, the Russian ruble was set by the Tajik regulator at 0.1413 somonis, and on March 11 it becomes 0.1346 somonis. If a thousand rubles have amounted to 145-149 somonis in early March, then on March 10 they have fallen to 129-130 somonis. The National Bank also increased official dollar and euro rates against the Tajik currency: from 9.6800 somonis to 9.7000 somonis and from 10.9558 somonis to 11.0347 somonis, respectively.
On March 13, the National Bank again lowered the official exchange rate of the Russian ruble. The decrease was 4.2% this time. Prior to lowering, the exchange rate was 0.1334 somoni; on March 13, the rate was set at 0.1288 somonis per ruble. On March 13, the National Bank also slightly lowered the euro – from 11.03 to 10.90 somoni. The dollar exchange rate remained the same – at 9.70 somonis per dollar.
Experts argue that the depreciation of a ruble will have a direct impact not only on migrant families but also on the Tajik economy. The country’s economy is heavily dependent on remittances from labor migrants, and in 2019 alone, $ 2 billion 700 million were transferred from Russia to Tajikistan. 80% of remittances sent to the country are in rubles.
On March 20, the National Bank lowered the rate of the Tajik currency against the dollar by 5%. The National Bank set the dollar at 10.20 somoni. The depreciation of the national currency against the dollar was explained by the increase in demand for American currency in the domestic market. A reduction in the country’s foreign trade balance caused a decrease in the inflow of foreign currency.
The Bank’s report highlights the impact of the current unstable economic situation in the world on the republic’s economy. The National Bank notes that the dollar exchange rate on Tajikistan’s non-banking market (the “black” market) recently has increased by 6.2% – from 9.79 somonis to 10.40 somoni. The National Bank said that it uses every opportunity to lower exchange rate pressure in the domestic market.
Tajikistan rejects criticism of the US State Department
On March 11, the US State Department published a report on the human rights situation in the world, calling out Tajik authorities for impeding the development of political pluralism in the country, as in previous years. The US State Department called Tajikistan “an authoritarian country”, where “President Emomali Rahmon and his supporters have great political clout”. The authors mention real problems related to the independence of the judiciary, harsh and life-threatening conditions in prisons, censorship, blocking websites, severe restrictions on religious freedom, corruption and nepotism in Tajikistan’s state structures.
The Tajik Foreign Ministry believes that the report of the US State Department does not trace an objective analysis of the current state of human rights in Tajikistan, and the document itself is politicized.
The US State Department says the report usually uses reliable and verified information from various sources, including the UN. But the Tajik Foreign Ministry believes that the report “reiterates extracts from previous reports and unverified information about the human rights situation in Tajikistan.” Dushanbe is also dissatisfied with the negative assessment of the human rights situation in the country. The Tajik Foreign Ministry accentuates the existence of international institutions, such as the Human Rights Council and the UN Human Rights Committee, which are authorized to review and evaluate these issues around the world.
Dushanbe requests Washington to refrain from publishing “false and unfounded information” about the human rights situation in Tajikistan. The Tajik Foreign Ministry says the country is always ready “for an open and constructive dialogue with the world community, including the United States, on issues related to human rights.”
On March 21, torrential rains left mudflows in the villages of Khalkajar and Pakhtakor in the Khuroson region. The disaster resulted in flooded houses and household plots of locals; one of the residents is killed. Officials reported that damage counting continues, but mudflows have damaged more than 200 houses.
On March 25, Khatlon region’s authorities announced that they had sent dozens of rescuers and hundreds of volunteers to the Khalkajar village in the Khuroson region. The dispatch of 50 soldiers and officers of the Committee for Emergency Situations (CES), as well as 400 volunteers, was organized after the affected population accused the authorities of inaction, and they had to cope with the consequences of the mudflow on their own. 4 trucks for transporting stone and gravel, as well as 7 excavators and other equipment for clearing flooded roads and houses, were allocated. Over 700 residents of the Khuroson region are temporarily evacuated to safe places.
By March 26, the basements of 32 residential buildings and household plots, as well as 200 meters of patch networks, were cleared from mud and water with the CES’ efforts. The center for state sanitary and epidemiological surveillance has disinfected residential houses and household plots of 246 households in the Halkadzhar village and 73 households in the Pakhtaobod village, as well as school number 24, the stadium, first-aid post, streets and mosque.
Upper House Elections
The elections to the upper house of Tajikistan’s parliament were held on March 27. The Central Election Commission reported that the new convocation of the Majlisi milli of the Republic of Tajikistan is considered valid; 25 people were elected from the multi-member constituencies to become the upper house members. Elections were held in five multi-member constituencies with the participation of 2163 people’s deputies of the regions.
The upper house of Tajikistan employs 33 deputies who are elected for a term of 5 years. Unlike the lower house, the senate in Tajikistan is elected not by direct vote, but by deputies of local legislative assemblies. Each of the 5 constituencies elects five senators. Another eight senators are appointed by the President of Tajikistan through the issuance of a distinct decree.
The son of the Tajik president, Rustam Emomali, was elected a member of the upper house of parliament. He was voted by 217 deputies at the first joint session of the city parliament and the capital district congress of people’s deputies. Local experts and political scientists do not preclude the appointment of the president’s eldest son to the speaker of the Tajik parliament’s upper house soon, thereby making him the second most powerful in the country after President Emomali Rahmon.
According to Tajikistan’s Ministry of Health and Social Protection, as of April 1, not a single case of COVID-19 infection has been found in Tajikistan. A total of 3156 people are in quarantine, including 107 foreigners.
Deputy health ministers held a series of operational meetings on March 30 in response to the spread of coronavirus in the world. With a strong emphasis on strict control over border crossing and quarantine for citizens entering Tajikistan from abroad, meetings resulted in precise instructions for officials to eliminate existing problems and shortcomings.
The next working meeting was held with representatives of the republic’s social services and public associations. Departments agreed on the actions of social institutions in the event of a proclaimed state of emergency in the republic due to the pandemic.
On March 25, Tajik authorities developed the Emergency Response Program for COVID-19 and asked for money from international financial institutions for its implementation. The program comprises measures to prevent coronavirus at the republican, regional and district levels. The program is also comprised of informing the public about the risks, epidemiological control, investigation of infection cases and prompt response.
On March 24, all checkpoints on the Tajik-Kyrgyz border were closed until the situation in Kyrgyzstan is stabilized. The restriction does not apply to Tajik citizens entering the country and foreign citizens leaving Tajikistan, drivers of freight cars, diplomats and members of their families accredited in Tajikistan, as well as members of government delegations.
The Civil Aviation Agency under the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan reported that since March 20, Tajikistan has closed its airspace for international passenger air carriers. The decision to close the country’s airspace was made due to the threat of the coronavirus. The flight ban applies only to international flights at the Dushanbe International Airport, and not domestic flights.
On March 18, by order of President Emomali Rahmon, a new republican headquarters was created in Tajikistan to strengthen anti-epidemic measures. It was headed by the Prime Minister of the Republic, Kokhir Rasulzoda. The head of state instructed the headquarters to draw up and approve an action plan to strengthen anti-epidemic measures, prevent the importation and spread of coronavirus and ensure their implementation.
On March 16, the representative office of the World Health Organization in Tajikistan recommended that the government refrain from holding public events. Contrary to this recommendation, the country traditionally celebrated the traditional Tajik New Year – Navruz on March 21-22.
President’s visit to Baku
On March 11, 2020, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov paid an official visit to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov held talks covering important issues of mutual interest. Among the priority areas of cooperation between the two countries are energy, transport and communications, agriculture, chemical and textile industry, construction, technology, services, and several others.
The heads of state then met in an expanded format with the participation of delegations. The strategic partnership of the nature of Azerbaijan – Turkmenistan relations was emphasized during the meetings. The sides discussed cooperation in the fields of energy, agriculture, science and education, tourism, culture, sports and other fields. A total of 18 bilateral documents was signed following the results of the Azerbaijani-Turkmen negotiations.
For many years, Turkmenistan has announced its plans to build a trans-Caspian pipeline to supply its gas to Europe through Azerbaijan. Not a word has been dropped, however, about the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline during the official statements of the heads of the two states.
Presidents of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan discuss coronavirus pandemic
President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov discussed over the phone with his Uzbek counterpart Shavkat Mirziyoyev the problem of the coronavirus spread, which caused a deterioration in international relations and trade. The call was reported by the press service of the head of state.
Both leaders argued that the countries of the Turkestan region and Central Asia should join forces to counter the influence of the coronavirus noting that joint actions will contribute to the successful resolution of the problem.
Turkmen citizens poisoned with fake alcohol in Turkey
53 Turkmen citizens have died because of fake vodka poisoning in Istanbul on March 28.
A total of 61 people have been admitted to medical facilities with severe poisoning since March 13; most with the serious condition. 15 people, most of whom were Turkmen citizens, later on, died from fake vodka poisoning. Poisoned citizens were found in different parts of Istanbul. Due to the restrictions with coronavirus pandemic, relatives of the victims were unable to attend the funeral.
The parents of the deceased in Turkmenistan turned to local authorities and law enforcement agencies with requests to help deliver the bodies to their homeland. The Embassy of Turkmenistan in Ankara refused, however, to transport the bodies of deceased to their homeland or for funerals in Istanbul, justifying with no order received from Ashgabat.
The police officer conducting the investigation said that 11 Turkmen citizens of and several Turkish citizens were detained for producing and distributing the surrogate alcohol. They found a large amount of fake alcohol, as well as several sets of unregistered firearms and dozens of cartridges. Some of their cases have already been referred to court.
As it turned out, fake alcohol was distributed under the guise of Balykchy vodka produced in Turkmenistan (with labels printed in Turkey). With methyl alcohol – a toxic and cheap “substitute” for ethyl alcohol – in composition. According to police, Turkmen migrants drank alcohol, succumbed to rumors of its alleged protection against coronavirus.
Coronavirus Control Measures
According to official data, not a single case of COVID-19 infection has been found in Turkmenistan. Nevertheless, Turkmenistan is stepping up its efforts to prevent the entry of the epidemic into the country.
- Additional control points have been created around large settlements, including Ashgabat. The temperature of drivers or passengers of vehicles is measured before entry;
- print and electronic media disseminate recommendations from international organizations (WHO and UNICEF) and the Turkmen Health Ministry;
- the importance of personal hygiene, especially handwashing with soap, is explained to children in schools;
- the national committee for the prevention of infectious diseases holds regular meetings to monitor the situation;
- the crossing of the state border of Turkmenistan is limited for foreign citizens from March 20 to April 20.
Turkmenistan bans use of the word ‘coronavirus’
Turkmenistan has actually banned the word “coronavirus”. It is avoided not only in the state media but also in the informational medical brochures that are distributed in schools and clinics.
This was reported by the Reporters Without Borders organization, citing an independent Turkmenistan Chronicle website blocked in the country.
According to correspondents of Radio Azatlyk in Ashgabat, street conversations about the coronavirus may end you in detention. Besides, law enforcement officers in plainclothes stand in line with the rest of the citizens and eavesdrop their conversations.
According to official data from Turkmen authorities, no cases of coronavirus have been found in the country. The authorities, however, are taking measures to combat the spread of infection, in many ways similar to the measures taken in countries where there are many infected.
According to some reports, private stores, service enterprises, as well as food production businesses, including bakeries, have been massively closed in Ashgabat since April 1. The temperature is massively measured among the population. Schools have extended holidays. Radio sources claim that the cases of infection is growing in Turkmenistan but remain unreported by authorities.
Humanitarian Aid to Iran
Turkmenistan transferred humanitarian aid consisting of essential goods, including medical instruments, to Iran to fight against coronavirus. By order of the President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, humanitarian aid was donated due to the increase in cases of acute respiratory infections caused by a coronavirus in Iran.
In late February, Turkmenistan closed the border with Iran amid an outbreak of coronavirus in that country.
Gulnara Karimova has received 13 years
On March 18, the trial in the Tashkent City Criminal Court announced the verdict against Gulnara Karimova and members of her criminal community.
The court found Karimova guilty of organizing a criminal community, extortion, embezzlement and misappropriating the property of others, money laundering, and other crimes. Karimova has been sentenced to 13 years and four months of imprisonment. Considering the norms of the country’s criminal law, as well as per the totality of sentences imposed for several crimes and previous sentences, the court determined Karimova’s sentence to be dated from August 21, 2015. The remaining defendants were also given appropriate punishments, taking into account the gravity of their acts, as well as their role in the crimes committed.
Back in 2015, Gulnara Karimova was sentenced to five years in prison, having found guilty of assisting a group engaged in misappropriation, embezzlement of state funds and tax evasion. Later, in 2017, Karimova was sentenced to an additional five years, having been allowed to serve her sentence at home with her daughter. However, in March 2019, the punishment was toughened, transferring Karimova to a colony for violation of the house arrest’s terms. In August 2019, new cases were opened against Karimova, accusing her of laundering criminal proceeds abroad. The Uzbek Prosecutor General’s Office completed the investigation in January 2020.
In late February, Karimova turned to the current head of state, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, with a request to release her from prison. The daughter of the late Uzbek president suggested dismissing her court case again, in exchange offering to return $ 686 million frozen in Swiss bank accounts.
The government of Uzbekistan approved the proposal for cooperation with the EEU as an observer state. A cabinet meeting was held on March 6, at which the possible acquisition of observer status in the EEU and integration into the economic zone of the Eurasian Union were considered.
The working group, composed of government representatives, ministries and departments on economic integration, studied 16 major sectors of the republic’s economy. The meeting examined the studies of independent consulting companies and research institutions, proposals and recommendations of foreign and local experts. Expert opinions were examined on large sectors of the economy and industrial policy, streamlining customs tariffing and foreign trade policy, labor migration, standardization and veterinary medicine, sanitary and phytosanitary control, and other issues. The interconnectedness of the integration processes of Uzbekistan into the World Trade Organization and the EEU was accentuated during the meeting.
Based on the materials studied, the government recommended that the parliament decide to obtain Uzbekistan the status of observer state in the EEU. Now the floor belongs to the Legislative Chamber and the Senate of the Oliy Majlis, which must adopt the relevant legislative act.
March 8 pardon
On International Women’s Day, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a decree to pardon women serving sentences in prison. To compile a list of persons recommended for pardon, a special working group was created that held meetings with prisoners. The list included those who sincerely repented, realized the severity of their deeds and expressed their willingness to embark on the path of correction.
Shavkat Mirziyoyev pardoned 83 women, of which 58 will be released on parole and 25 women have now lessened prison sentences. Seven of the pardoned are citizens of foreign countries.
The relevant departments were instructed to help those released in their return to their families, in social adaptation and employment.
State program for 2020
The President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, by a decree of March 2, approved the 2020 State Program “Year of the Development of Science, Education and the Digital Economy”. The program consists of 284 items; after public discussion, the number of paragraphs has decreased compared to the project (320 items), and the amount of allocated money has increased.
The state program provides a permit from April 1 to purchase real estate in Tashkent, regardless of registration. The program also cancels the Government royalty rate for individuals for notarization of real estate purchase and sale agreements in new buildings in Tashkent and the Tashkent region, which now accounts for 5% of the contract amount.
Besides, a procedure is being introduced from July 1, 2020, for a regular hearing of information from heads of state bodies and economic management bodies, as well as Parliament Members, at meetings of the Legislative Chamber of Uzbekistan’s Oliy Majlis.
18.17 trillion so’ms ($ 1.9 billion) and $ 10.3 billion will be allocated for the implementation of projects and activities, although the project provided 17.5 trillion. so’ms ($ 1.8 billion) and $ 9.6 billion. 12.9 trillion so’ms ($ 1.3 billion) are allocated from the budget and extra-budgetary trust funds, 2 trillion so’ms ($ 210 million) – from funds of executors and banks, 3.3 trillion so’ms (346 million) and $ 10.3 billion – funds from international financial institutions and grants.
A public discussion of the draft state program was held from February 11 to February 20, 2020, on 2020.strategy.uz and regulation.gov.uz websites. A total of 3162 comments and suggestions were received. Most of the comments were on issues related to public administration (765), the judicial system (586), the economy (542), the social sphere (815) and external security (91). As a result, 62 conceptual and more than 30 editorial changes and additions were introduced.
Cannabis is permitted
Legal entities In Uzbekistan are now allowed to grow, process and sell hemp (cannabis) for industrial purposes not related to the production or manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. The relevant amendments were introduced on March 17 to the law “On Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances”.
The legal entities wishing to engage in this type of activity must obtain a special license. Licenses for this type of activity will be issued in the order prescribed by the Cabinet of Ministers. Another term is that the content of the narcotic drug tetrahydrocannabinol in cultivated cannabis species should not exceed 0.2%.
According to Section 6 of the Law “On Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances”, cultivation and trafficking of narcotic plants have so far been a state monopoly. This could be done only by state-owned enterprises and only for scientific purposes.
Foreign currency surge
The Central Bank of Uzbekistan has established new exchange rates to operate from March 10. The dollar, amid the collapse in oil prices, fell against the sum. On March 10, the dollar rate amounted to 9,500 so’ms and 54 tiyins – the rate fell by 13 so’ms and 30 tiyins. The ruble also fell in price but slightly. Ruble amounts to 138.91 so’ms from March 10. The euro, on the contrary, sharply went up by 232 so’ms and 35 tiyins amounting to 10721 sums and 36 tiyins.
The Central Bank established new foreign exchange rates on March 16. Thus, the official dollar exchange rate increased by 19.8 so’ms and amounted to 9 520.34 so’ms. The euro exchange rate fell by 149.02 so’ms and amounted to 10 572.34 so’ms.
Since March 25, the Central Bank of Uzbekistan established new exchange rates of foreign currencies against the Uzbek sum. Prior to this, the official dollar exchange rate grew by 12.4 so’ms and amounted to 9 532.74 so’ms. The euro exchange rate fell by 352.29 so’ms and amounted to 10,220.05 so’ms. The exchange rate of the Russian ruble decreased by 10.23 so’ms and amounted to 119.99 so’ms.
On August 20, 2019, the central bank stopped setting prices for the sale and purchase of foreign currency claiming they will be formed on the market independently. Also, from August 20, Uzbekistan allowed the sale of foreign currency in cash through exchange offices.
General epidemiological situation
According to the Health Ministry, as of April 2, the number of infected with COVID-19 in Uzbekistan has reached 190 cases.
According to the Health Ministry, on March 15, a female citizen who returned from France was diagnosed with the first COVID-19 case in the republic. Since then, two patients have died, the first seven have recovered. According to the agency, more than 90 thousand people are in quarantine, including more than 12 thousand in hospitals.
To prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus in Uzbekistan, it was decided to temporarily cancel air and road communications with other countries from March 16 to April 30. Also, all kindergartens, schools, and universities of the republic are under quarantine since March 16. Mass events for Novruz celebrations are canceled.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev at a video conference on March 18 addressed the people of Uzbekistan on the COVID-19 epidemic in the country. Shavkat Mirziyoyev urged people to follow doctors’ recommendations and observe the rules of hygiene and sanitation. He assured that the country has sufficient reserves and instructed the government to develop a program to support the economy and the population. The president also noted that measures are being taken to prevent the rise in prices for food and other consumer goods.
Starting March 24, Uzbekistan restricted suburban transport links between the regions of the country. This decision was made by the Special Republican Commission for the prevention of coronavirus epidemic.
Earlier, on March 22, Tashkent halted all public transportation, including subway, buses, and minibusses. One can drive in the capital only on personal cars or cars of organizations, as well as on disinfected taxi cars. Also, from March 23, citizens, going out into the street, must be wearing protective masks. For the absence of masks, citizens will be fined in the amount of one basic unit of remuneration.
From March 30 to April 20, the operation of all airports in the country and any air traffic, the movement of vehicles inside Uzbekistan due to the spread of COVID-19 will be carried out solely through special permissions.
COVID -19 Mitigation Project
On March 30, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev examined a draft decree submitted to him on additional measures to mitigate the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. He instructed to include specific methods in the document to strengthen the protection of the population’s socially vulnerable segments.
The project was developed per the head of state’s order and is a logical follow-up of the Uzbek President’s Decree dated March 19, 2020, No. UP – 5969 “On priority measures to mitigate the negative impact on the economy of the coronavirus pandemic and global crisis phenomena”.
The document provides for regular benefits, preferences and other important measures to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic on the country’s economy and living standards. The President noted that the worked out decree should elaborate on the care for lonely elderly people, disabled people, and low-income families, saturate the market with food and medicines, prevent rising prices, hinder the reduction of business entities’ working capital and provide them with additional benefits.
On March 26, under the chairmanship of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, a video conference was held on strengthening the counteraction to the spread of coronavirus. During the video conference, the republic’s head announced some additional measures to support businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ministries of health and finance were instructed to purchase 300 thousand rapid tests and 500 mechanical ventilation apparatuses, organize mobile laboratories in settlements with a high risk of the virus’ spread. Practical assistance will be provided to doctors; foreign specialists will be invited to advance domestic doctors’ qualifications and increase the daily production of medical masks up to 5 million. Mirziyoyev ordered state bodies and non-governmental organizations to send at least 50% of employees on paid leave, and the remaining ones to be transferred to remote work. People over 60 and suffering from chronic diseases were advised not to leave their homes; all workers in this category should be sent on vacation. Highlighted the importance of forming volunteer squads from students of medical and military universities, the organization of the delivery of food, hygiene and medicine for single elderly people, families without a breadwinner, and those in remote areas. Imported medicines, substances, medical equipment, and other necessary commodities are instructed to be exempted from the payment of customs duties and value-added tax.
Measures are also being taken to mitigate the negative impact of the coronavirus outbreak on economic sectors. Many privileges and preferences for this were reinforced by the Uzbek President’s of March 19, 2020.
The increased property tax and land tax on unused business objects will not be applied up to October 1. Until November 1, enterprises facing financial difficulties due to the coronavirus pandemic will not be declared bankrupt. During the quarantine period, business entities will not be charged rent for more than 3.6 thousand objects of state property. Meanwhile, the period for fulfilling investment obligations on all projects is extended by 6 months. The suspension of the entrepreneurs’ bank account during the quarantine is prohibited. The licensing of services for the delivery and transportation of goods is temporarily canceled.
On March 30, Chinese military-industrial complex companies transferred humanitarian aid to Uzbekistan of 20 tons of medication. The cargo encompassed disposable masks and gloves, goggles and thermal imagers.
This is not where humanitarian cooperation between China and Uzbekistan ends. The republic was included in the list of states that received assistance in combating the coronavirus pandemic from the funds of the Chinese billionaire, founder of the Alibaba Group, Jack Ma. As part of a charity project, Foundations distributed about two million medical masks, 165 thousand test systems for the COVID-19 diagnosis, protective suits and necessary equipment.
On March 28, the United Arab Emirates provided humanitarian assistance to Uzbekistan. The UAE transferred more than eight tons of masks, gloves, overalls and other personal protective equipment to Uzbekistan’s Health Ministry. Russia and the United States are among other states that assisted Uzbekistan in combating the spread of COVID-19, including in identifying infected patients.
Migrants stuck in Russian airports
Hundreds of labor migrants are stuck in the air harbors of Moscow and Russia: borders are being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic; only Russian citizens can return to the country on charter flights.
People spend nights on airport floors. Among them are many migrants from Central Asia. They rushed home in panic after the borders began to close; spent a lot of money on tickets, but their flights were canceled.
According to some reports, unidentified people in uniform on the night of March 31 drove out approximately 300 Central Asian labor migrants from the building of the Domodedovo Airport, 200 of them were Tajik citizens.
Representatives of the embassies of Central Asian countries urge people to return to “places of permanent/temporary residence” and wait for the resolution of the situation.
On assisting in the fight against COVID -19
With the spread of a novel coronavirus, Rospotrebnadzor established interaction with foreign partners on March 12, to monitor the epidemic situation and assist countries in need.
Test systems developed by Rospotrebnadzor were transferred to the Eurasian Economic Union’s member states, i.e. Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, the Republic of Belarus and Armenia. Tests were also transferred to Azerbaijan, the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Mongolia, the DPRK, and Iran. A total of 800 test systems for laboratory diagnostics of the COVID-19 were transmitted, which will allow carrying out 80 thousand studies.
The assistance programs to neighboring states, implemented by Rospotrebnadzor with the support of the Government of the Russian Federation for more than 10 years, have already contributed to ensuring the preparedness of the countries in the Eurasian region for epidemics. This strengthens the collective capacity of countries in the region to combat the threat of an epidemic similar to a novel coronavirus infection.
Discussing the COVID-19 situation
Rospotrebnadzor said that the Council of Chief State Physicians of the EEU has discussed the situation with a novel coronavirus infection in a video conference on March 16. The Eurasian Economic Union’s member states, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and the Kyrgyz Republic, joined the meeting. Uzbekistan and Tajikistan were also invited to the discussion.
Participants acknowledged the reconsideration of the initial tactics aimed at preventing the importation and spread of coronavirus. They also highlighted the importance of ensuring the region’s sanitary-epidemiological well-being through Rospotrebnadzor’s donations (deliveries of modern Russian laboratory diagnostics of COVID-19).
Given the global spread of coronavirus, the meeting participants stressed the need to take concerted action and share COVID-19 – related information on the epidemiological situation to protect the life and health of people of Eurasia.
Patent Renewal for Migrants
The Interior Ministry of the Russian Federation declared that in connection with the coronavirus spread, labor migrants in Russia can apply for new patents without traveling outside the country from March 19.
Migrants applying for patent renewal will not be prosecuted for late submissions of the required application forms. Foreign citizens are allowed, among other things, to extend the period of temporary stay in Russia. The issuance of permits to attract foreign workers and work permits to foreigners residing in Russia shall also resume. The stay of foreign citizens residing in Russia on temporary residence permit or permanent residency will be extended if the document issued expires.
Russia has banned foreigners from entering the country since March 18, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan closed the entry and exit two days earlier. This jeopardized the legal status of many migrants. Under normal circumstances, they needed to leave Russia to update their documents, but they were unable to do this because of the closure of the borders .
Food panic in Central Asia
On March 14, Uzbekistan confirmed its first case of COVID-19, while by March 16 the number of coronavirus cases increased to six. News of the first infection case exacerbated the anxiety amongst the population. People have started stockpiling rice, flour, butter and canned goods from Tashkent supermarkets. According to Prime Minister Abdullah Aripov, the government undertakes actions to impede overcharging for food and medicine.
Panic-buying has also brought boom for certain Kyrgyz markets and warehouses. The panic among the population arose on March 13, after the government of Kazakhstan confirmed the first coronavirus cases. The Vice Prime Minister for Economic Affairs asserted that there are no grounds for panic, food supplies and necessities in Kyrgyzstan are sufficient.
After the surge in USD and the closure of borders, Kyrgyz residents began reporting a rise in prices. The antimonopoly regulation agency conducted monitoring of prices for essential commodities on March 13. The economy ministries, the antimonopoly agency and the public service for combating economic crimes met with the owners of large retail chains on hindering unjustified price increases for commodities and food, and the creation of an artificial commodity shortage .
The Kyrgyz government held a meeting On March 15, where the food scarcity issue was considered. First Deputy Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov said that people who unreasonably and speculatively raised prices for essential goods will be prosecuted by the country’s legislation.
On March 23, the country’s prime minister, Muhammedkaly Abylgaziev, signed a decree to temporarily ban the export of certain foodstuffs and essential goods from the republic. Among the goods prohibited for export are flour, vegetable oil, sugar, chicken eggs, rice, and pasta. The export of compound feed, bran, and antibacterial agents is also prohibited.
Kazakhstan has also seen increased demand in major supermarkets since March 13. According to witnesses, buyers swept groceries and durable goods leaving empty shelves. The press secretary of one of Kazakhstan’s retail chains, Dmitry Shishkin, said that the current consumer flow has increased by 15% through the network (69 trade centers in the country).
Queues were observed not only in grocery stores but also in pharmacies. The people stockpiled medicines, disinfectants and napkins. In this regard, Mayor of Almaty Saparbek Tuyakbaev convened an extraordinary press conference on March 14 to inform citizens about food security and sufficient commodity stocks in the stabilization fund and storehouses.
Despite this, Nur-Sultan introduced quantitative restrictions from March 19 on the sale of certain food products for the period of quarantine. Yerlan Bekmyrzaev, head of the capital’s investment and enterprise development, said the restrictions apply to granulated products and vegetable oil. He assured people an insufficient food supply of 48 thousand tons, which is the monthly consumption rate. But at the same time, he declared the limitation for sale of granulated goods – up to 5 kg for one person in one receipt.
A similar situation has been observed in Dushanbe since early March. Although the country has not confirmed a single coronavirus case, people started to stockpile in panic. Food commodity prices rose in an instant as a result. Shodihon Jamshed, Tajikistan’s Deputy Health Minister, during briefing March 5, said that the Agency for State Material Reserves has sufficient food supplies for two years ahead. He also reported on continued food imports as before.
The main causes of panic among the populations of Central Asian states can be identified as follows:
- Rising food prices due to border closures;
- Distrust for the authorities;
- Outright famine due to the coronavirus epidemic.
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.
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 Ferghana News. “The Bishkek City Court has declared unlawful the ban of rallies until the summer.” Ferghana House https://fergana.news/news/115905/
 Vesti.kg. “The prosecutor’s office declared the ban on rallies in central Bishkek to be unlawful” Vesti.kg https://vesti.kg/politika/item/69270-prokuratura-priznala-nezakonnym-zapret-na-mitingi-v-tsentre-bishkeka.html
 Akipress.kg. “The state of emergency in Bishkek. Curfew, a special regime of entry and exit, limited traffic “. Akipress.kg https://kg.akipress.org/news:1605456/?from=kgnews&place=mainmain
 KaktusMedia. “Rules and recommendations for Kyrgyz citizens in the state of emergency.” KaktusMedia. https://kaktus.media/doc/408671_pravila_i_rekomendacii_dlia_kyrgyzstancev_prichrezvychaynoy_sityacii.html
 Anna Kapushenko. “10 new infected with coronavirus In Kyrgyzstan. There are already 94 cases in the country. ” Kloop.kg https://kloop.kg/blog/2020/03/30/v-kyrgyzstane-zafiksirovali-10-novyh-zarazhennyh-koronavirusom-vsego-v-strane-uzhe-94-zarazhennyh/
 Bakyt Torogeldi Uulu. “COVID-19 in Kyrgyzstan: 42 cases and the state of exception.” Radio Azattyk https://rus.azattyk.org/a/covid-19_v_kyrgyzstane_16_zabolevshih_i_rejim_chp/30505635.html
 State Tax Service under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic. “The deadline for submitting a single tax return has been extended.” State Tax Service under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic http://www.sti.gov.kg/news/2020/03/25/prodlen-srok-predstavleniya-end
 Camilla Baimuratova. “The head of the National Bank on the rate of KGS: Everything will be stabilized within few days.” Kloop.kg https://kloop.kg/blog/2020/03/20/glava-natsbanka-o-kurse-soma-vse-uravnovesitsya-v-techenie-neskolkih-dnej/
 Kabar.kg. “The IMF has allocated more than $ 120 million for Kyrgyzstan to combat COVID-19.” Kabar.kg http://kabar.kg/news/mvf-vydelil-kyrgyzstanu-bolee-120-mln-dollarov-na-bor-bu-s-covid-19/
 KaktusMedia. “Humanitarian aid delivered from China to health workers.” KaktusMedia. https://kaktus.media/doc/409114_dostavlena_gympomosh_ot_kitaia_dlia_medrabotnikov.html
 Ferghana News. “Jeenbekov asked the IMF for financial assistance due to coronavirus pandemic” Ferghana House https://fergana.agency/news/116466/
 Ferghana News. “The ruling PDPT received 50% of the vote in the parliamentary elections in Tajikistan.” Ferghana House https://fergana.agency/news/115649/
 Avesta.tj. “The head of the Tajik Central Election Commission announced the preliminary results of the parliamentary elections.” Avesta.tj. http://avesta.tj/2020/03/02/glava-tsik-tadzhikistana-obnarodoval-predvaritelnye-rezultaty-parlamentskih-vyborov/
 Avesta.tj. “R. Zoyirov: “The SDPT does not recognize the official results of parliamentary elections by party lists.” Avesta.tj. http://avesta.tj/2020/03/03/r-zojirov-sdpt-ne-priznaet-ofitsialnye-rezultaty-parlamentskih-vyborov-po-partijnym-spiskam/
 Payrav Chorshanbiev. “The National Bank of Tajikistan has adjusted the ruble.” Asia-Plus Tajikistan https://asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/economic/20200311/natsbank-tadzhikistana-skorrektiroval-kurs-rublya
 Ferghana News. “The exchange rate of the Russian ruble was again lowered in Tajikistan.” Ferghana House https://fergana.ru/news/116029/
 Abdullo Ashurov. “Black Tuesday and its implications for the Tajik economy.” Radio Ozodi https://rus.ozodi.org/a/30483290.html
 Payrav Chorshanbiev. “The dollar in Tajikistan has officially exceeded 10 somoni.” Asia-Plus https://asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/economic/20200320/dollar-v-tadzhikistane-ofitsialno-prevalil-za-10-somoni
 Elgezit. “Tajikistan has rejected criticism of the US State Department, calling it groundless. ” Elgezit https://elgezit.kg/2020/03/16/tadzhikistan-otverg-kritiku-gosdepa-ssha-nazvav-ee-bespochvennoj/
 Tohir Safar, Orzu Karim. “After the publication of Radio Ozodi: authorities sent rescuers to the affected village of Khalkajar. VIDEO”. Radio Ozodi https://rus.ozodi.org/a/30510229.html
 Sputnik Tajikistan. “More than 700 residents affected by the mudflow were evacuated from Khuroson.” Sputnik Tajikistan https://tj.sputniknews.ru/country/20200326/1030962917/tajikiststan-evakuatsia-700-zhiteley-postradavshikh-selya.html
 Sputnik Tajikistan. “The composition of Tajik parliament’s upper house has been announced: who joined it.” Sputnik Tajikistan https://tj.sputniknews.ru/main/20200327/1030971624/Tajikistan-sostav-verkhney-palaty-parlament-spisok.html
 Russian.people.cn. “The Tajik Central Election Commission has published preliminary results of the elections to the upper house of the country’s parliament.” Russian.people.cn. http://russian.people.com.cn/31519/6932014.html
 Radio Ozodi. “Rustami Emomali was elected a member of the upper house of parliament in Tajikistan.” Radio Ozodi. https://rus.ozodi.org/a/30512578.html
 Regnum. “The son of the president of Tajikistan became a senator.” Regnum.ru. https://regnum.ru/news/polit/2897825.html
 Sputnik Tajikistan. ” Health Ministry: Tajikistan reinforces measures to impede coronavirus.” Sputnik Tajikistan. https://tj.sputniknews.ru/health/20200325/1030952933/Tajikistan-minzdrav-mery-profilaktika-koronavirus.html https://tj.sputniknews.ru/health/20200325/1030952933/Tajikistan-minzdrav-meryprofilak -koronavirus.html
 Sputnik Tajikistan. “Tajikistan is preparing for an emergency regime in case of confirmed coronavirus cases” Sputnik Tajikistan https://tj.sputniknews.ru/health/20200330/1030978814/Tajikistan-rezhim-ChP-vyyavleniye-koronavirus.htmlhttps://tj.sputniknews.ru/health/20200330/1030978814/Tajikistan-rezhim-ChP vyyavleniye-koronavirus.html
 Mullorajob Yusufzoda. “Tajikistan has developed a Coronavirus Emergency Response Program.” Radio Ozodi. https://rus.ozodi.org/a/30507095.html
 Sputnik Tajikistan. “The border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan closed because of the coronavirus.” Sputnik Tajikistan https://tj.sputniknews.ru/country/20200324/1030944403/granica-tajikistan-kyrgyzstan-koronavirus.html https://tj.sputniknews.ru/country/20200324/1030944403/granica-tajikistan-kyristan .html
 Avesta.tj. “Tajikistan has closed its airspace for international carriers.” Avesta.tj. http://avesta.tj/2020/03/20/tadzhikistan-zakryl-svoe-vozdushnoe-prostranstvo-dlya-mezhdunarodnyh-aviaperevozchikov/
 Avaz Yuldashev. “Kokhir Rasulzoda heads a new headquarters to strengthen anti-epidemic measures in Tajikistan.” Asia-Plus. https://asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/power/20200320/kohir-rasulzoda-vozglavil-novii-shtab-po-usileniyu-protivoepidemicheskih-meropriyatii
 Cabar. “Photo story: Uzbekistan and Tajikistan during the coronavirus pandemic.” Cabar.asia https://cabar.asia/ru/fotoreportazh-uzbekistan-i-tadzhikistan-vo-vremya-pandemii-koronavirusa/
 Victoria Panfilova. “Berdymukhamedov is breaking through a corridor to Europe.” Nezavisimaya Gazeta http://www.ng.ru/cis/2020-03-12/5_7816_azerbaijan.html
 D. Savosin. “AND. Aliyev warmly welcomes Berdimuhamedov in Baku. ” Neftegaz.ru https://neftegaz.ru/news/finance/533497-i-aliev-ochen-teplo-vstretil-g-berdymukhamedova-v-g-baku/
 Anar Huseynov. “Tuurkmen citizens visit Baku to exchange currency: interview.” Eurasia Daily https://eadaily.com/en/news/2020/03/13/grazhdane-turkmenistana-poseshchayut-baku-chtoby-obmenyat-valyutu-intervyu
 Radio Azatlyk. “Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov paid an official visit to Azerbaijan on Wednesday.” Radio Azatlyk https://rus.azathabar.com/a/30483697.html
 IA Regnum. “The presidents of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan discussed the coronavirus pandemic.” IA Regnum https://regnum.ru/news/polit/2889914.html
 Chronicle of Turkmenistan. “Fake alcohol killed 37 Turkmen citizens in Istanbul (video).” Chronicle of Turkmenistan https://www.hronikatm.com/2020/03/37-dead-of-surrogate-alcohol-poisoning/
 Radio Azatlyk. “53 Turkmen citizens are victims of fake vodka poisoning in Istanbul, 15 are in serious condition.” Radio Azatlyk. https://rus.azathabar.com/a/30514715.html
 Chronicle of Turkmenistan. “Fake alcohol killed 37 Turkmen citizens in Istanbul (video).” Chronicle of Turkmenistan https://www.hronikatm.com/2020/03/37-dead-of-surrogate-alcohol-poisoning/
 Ferghana News. “The number of dead Turkmen citizens from fake vodka in Istanbul rose to 53.” Ferghana House https://fergana.agency/news/116548/
 JeyhunNews. “Turkmenistan is stepping up efforts to prevent the penetration of Covid-19.” JeyhunNews https://jeyhun.news/%D1%82%D1%83%D1%80%D0%BA%D0%BC%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%81%D1%82% D0% B0% D0% BD-% D0% BD% D0% B0% D1% 80% D0% B0% D1% 89% D0% B8% D0% B2% D0% B0% D0% B5% D1% 82-% D1% 83% D1% 81% D0% B8% D0% BB% D0% B8% D1% 8F-% D0% BF% D0% BE-% D0% BF% D1% 80 /
 Central Asia Media. “The Turkmen authorities have banned the use of the word coronavirus”. Central Asia.Media. https://centralasia.media/news:1607457
 Radio Azatlyk. “Turkmenistan has donated humanitarian aid to Iran to combat coronavirus.” Radio Azatlyk https://rus.azathabar.com/a/30499793.html
 The Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan. “Message from the Supreme Court’s press service on the criminal case of Karimova and others.” Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan http: //sud.uz/en/ccr_slider/%D0%B8%D0%BD%D1%84%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%BC%D0%B0%D1%86%D0% B8% D0% BE% D0% BD% D0% BD% D0% BE% D0% B5-% D1% 81% D0% BE% D0% BE% D0% B1% D1% 89% D0% B5% D0% BD % D0% B8% D0% B5-% D0% BF% D1% 80% D0% B5% D1% 81% D1% 81-% D1% 81% D0% BB% D1% 83% D0% B6 /
 RBC. “The Uzbek court sentenced Gulnara Karimova to 13 years in prison”. RBC https://www.rbc.ru/rbcfreenews/5e71f1769a79471281eed275
 Uzbekistan News. “Will Uzbekistan be an observer in the EAEU?” Uzbekistan News https://nuz.uz/politika/47336-budetli-uzbekistan-nablyudatelem-v-eaes.html
 Newspaper.uz. “Uzbekistan intends to become an observer in the EAEU.” Newspaper.uz. https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2020/03/07/euu-parliament/
 The official website of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan. “Commentary on the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan On pardon of a group of convicted women serving a sentence of imprisonment in connection with International Women’s Day. ” The official website of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan https://president.uz/ru/lists/view/3428
 Newspaper.uz. “The President approved the State Program 2020.” Newspaper.uz https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2020/03/03/programm-2020/
 The rhythm of Eurasia. “The state program for 2020 has been approved in Uzbekistan.” The rhythm of Eurasia https://www.ritmeurasia.org/news–2020-03-03–v-uzbekistane-utverzhdena-gosudarstvennaja-programma-na-2020-god-47799
 Review.uz. “Uzbekistan adopts the State Program for 2020.” Review.uz. https://review.uz/ru/post/v-uzbekistane-prinyata-gosprogramma-na-2020-god
 The rhythm of Eurasia. “Uzbekistan approve the state program for 2020.” The rhythm of Eurasia https://www.ritmeurasia.org/news–2020-03-03–v-uzbekistane-utverzhdena-gosudarstvennaja-programma-na-2020-god-47799
 Radio Ozodlik. “Uzbekistan permit legal entities to grow hemp.” Radio Ozodlik https://rus.ozodlik.org/a/30496803.html
 Tatyana Kudryavtseva. “Uzbekistan has allowed the cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes.” IA 24kg. https://24.kg/obschestvo/147065_vuzbekistane_razreshili_vyiraschivanie_konopli_vpromyishlennyihih_tselyah/
 Vadim Erzikov. “Uzbekistan allows to grow hemp.” Kursiv.kz https://kursiv.kz/news/otraslevye-temy/2020-03/v-uzbekistane-razreshili-vyraschivat-konoplyu
 Temir Isaev. “Against all odds. The dollar in Uzbekistan is getting cheaper for the sixth consecutive week. In Kazakhstan, on the contrary, the dollar went up.” Podrobno.uz https://podrobno.uz/cat/economic/vopreki-vsemu-v-uzbekistane-dollar-desheveet-shestuyu-nedelyu-podryad-v-kazakhstane-naoborot-dollar-/
 UPL 24. “The dollar exchange rate in Uzbekistan rose for the first time after 7 weeks.” UPL 24 https://upl.uz/economy/14780-news.html
 UzNews. “The Central Bank has set new exchange rates: the dollar has risen in price a little.” UzNews https://uznews.uz/ru/article/19756
 Temir Isaev. “The central bank will no longer set prices for the sale and purchase of foreign currency.” Podrobno.uz https://podrobno.uz/cat/economic/tsentralnyy-bank-bolshe-ne-budet-ustanavlivat-tseny-/
 Central Asia.Media. “Tashkent has largest number of patients with coronavirus making it 73.” Central Asia.Media https://centralasia.media/news:1607315
 RIA Novosti. “The number of infected with coronavirus in Uzbekistan has grown to 158. ” RIA news https://ria.ru/20200331/1569379108.html
 Interfax. “The number of infected with coronavirus has reached 133 in Uzbekistan.” Interfax https://www.interfax.ru/world/701421
 Ilkin Seyfaddini. “Uzbekistan closes transport links with other countries because of the coronavirus.” Trend News Agency. https://www.trend.az/business/transport/3208150.html
 Sputnik Uzbekistan. “Uzbekistan restricts transport links between regions.” Sputnik Uzbekistan
 Sputnik Uzbekistan. “The use of personal transport if forbidden in Uzbekistan since March 30,.” Sputnik Uzbekistan https://uz.sputniknews.ru/society/20200329/13795279/V-Uzbekistane-s-30-marta-zapreschaetsya-polzovatsya-lichnym-transportom.html
 True East. “The draft decree will be improved.” True East https://pv.uz/en/news/farmon-loyihasi-takomillashtiriladi
 Official website of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan. “Additional measures have been identified to strengthen social and medical protection of people” The official website of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan https://president.uz/en/lists/view/3473
 Ferghana News. “China handed over 20 tons of medicines to Uzbekistan.” Ferghana House https://fergana.agency/news/116579/
 Newspaper.uz. “Uzbekistan receives assistance from the UAE.” Newspaper.Uz https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2020/03/28/uae/
 Knarik Khachatryan. “Migrant workers are stuck at Moscow airports.” Euronews https://ru.euronews.com/2020/03/24/russia-migrants-airports
 Current time. “They threw us out as an unnecessary load”: about 300 migrants were driven out of Domodedovo into the street at night.” Current time. https://www.currenttime.tv/a/migrantov-vikinuli-iz-domodedovo/30519859.html
 Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-Being. “On assistance in the fight against the new coronavirus to countries near and far abroad and the transfer of test systems for the diagnosis of COVID-19.” Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-Being https://www.rospotrebnadzor.ru/about/info/news/news_details.php?ELEMENT_ID=13952
 The Tyumen Line. “The situation with COVID-19 was discussed at the council of chief state physicians of the EAEU countries.” Tyumen Line https://t-l.ru/279889.html
 Interior Ministry of the Chechen Republic. “The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia explains the procedure for extending the period of temporary stay for foreign citizens on the territory of the Russian Federation.” Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Chechen Republic https: //95.xn--b1aew.xn--p1ai/news/item/19871237/
 Kabar. “Russia allowed migrants to renew patents without leaving the country” Kabar.kg http://kabar.kg/news/rossiia-razreshila-migrantam-prodlit-patenty-bez-vyezda-iz-strany/
 Eurasianet. “Coronavirus in Central Asia.” Eurasianet. https://russian.eurasianet.org/%D0%BA%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%BD%D0%B0%D0%B2%D0%B8%D1%80%D1%83 % D1% 81-% D0% B2-% D1% 86% D0% B5% D0% BD% D1% 82% D1% 80% D0% B0% D0% BB% D1% 8C% D0% BD% D0% BE % D0% B9-% D0% B0% D0% B7% D0% B8% D0% B8
 Semetey Amanbekov. “The panic in the grocery market. Why is the country’s top leadership silent?” Elgezit https://elgezit.kg/2020/03/15/azhiotazh-i-panika-na-produktovom-rynke-pochemu-molchit-vysshee-rukovodstvo-strany/
 Sputnik Kyrgyzstan. “Speculators take the opportunity. There is no reason to panic – Deputy Prime Minister.” Sputnik Kyrgyzstan https://ru.sputnik.kg/society/20200314/1047387743/pravitelstvo-zayavlenie-produkty.html
 Akchabar. “Government: The rise in prices for essential goods is not observed in Kyrgyzstan.” Akchabar https://www.akchabar.kg/ru/news/pravitelstvo-povysheniya-cen-na-produkty-pervoj-neobhodimosti-v-kr-ne-nablyudaetsya/
 KaktusMedia. “Kyrgyzstan is raising the price for flour. What actions will the authorities undertake?” KaktusMedia https://kaktus.media/doc/407990_v_kyrgyzstane_povyshaut_ceny_na_myky._kakie_deystviia_predprimyt_vlasti.html
 Regnum. “Kyrgyzstan has banned the export of flour and pasta.” IA Regnum https://regnum.ru/news/2891966.html
 Ulyana Salapaeva. “Hyped supermarkets. Do I have to run after groceries?” Forbes Kazakhstan https://forbes.kz/process/v_supermarketah_tsarit_ajiotaj_nado_li_bejat_za_produktami/
 Kazakhstan Today. “There is no shortage of food, masks and disinfectants in Almaty – akimat.” Kazakhstan Today https://www.kt.kz/rus/economy/nedostatka_v_prodovolstvii_maskah_i_dezinfitsiruyuschih_1377895649.html
 Arina Gorbunova. “Nur-Sultan restricted the sale of certain products.” Forbes Kazakhstan https://forbes.kz/finances/markets/v_nur-sultane_ogranichili_prodaju_nekotoryih_produktov/?utm_source=forbes&utm_medium=trend
 Kabarlar.org. “In Tajikistan, people are stockpiling groceries in a panic amid rumors of a coronavirus (Photo).” Kabarlar.org https://kabarlar.org/news/110086-v-tadzhikistane-naselenie-v-panike-skupaet-vse-produkty-na-fone-sluhov-o-koronaviruse-foto.html