May 2020 in Central Asia is remembered for the steady increase in coronavirus cases, the easing of quarantine rules, border disputes, floods and mudflows, rallies, and heightened social tension. The analytical platform CABAR.asia provides a brief overview of the most significant events in the region over the past month.
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As of May 1, Kazakhstan reported 3551 active cases, 866 recovered, and 25 deaths. By May 31, the number of coronavirus cases in Kazakhstan totaled 10,858, whereas 5 220 people have recovered and 38 died.
COVID-19 Control Measures
On May 11, Kazakhstan ended the state of emergency. On May 26, the head of state instructed regional administrations to tighten control over compliance with sanitary and epidemiological requirements due to an increase in the number of cases.
Akimats were instructed to reduce social contacts, monitor the wearing of masks, control the crowding in public transport, and reinforce disinfection measures.
On May 12, the country’s Chief Sanitary Physician Aizhan Esmagambetova stated that Kazakhstan will ease quarantine in three stages.
The first stage of quarantine easing will be in force once the weekly rise in cases would be no more than 7 percent; the second stage – once the weekly rise is no more than 5 percent; and the third stage – once the rise in cases does not exceed 2 percent. At the same time, public gatherings are still banned, while entertainment centers and religious sites activities under prohibition.
On May 11, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev announced a gradual end of quarantine. In particular, some shops, beauty salons, educational centers, and other facilities were allowed to resume their activities.
Travel restrictions between regions, however, are still in force. Public transport will operate at half capacity; no more than 3 people allowed to go outside simultaneously; 50 percent of civil servants will continue to work online.
Flooding in Turkestan region
An emergency situation was declared on May 2 in the Maktaaral district of Kazakhstan’s Turkestan region after the dam collapse in Uzbekistan.
Maktaralsky district, the village of Zhenis. Photo: Uljan Tolen
10 villages, 640 residential buildings, and 3,600 hectares of land have been flooded as a result. About 30 thousand people and 6000 livestock from flooded settlements were reportedly evacuated. The total amount of damage is estimated at approximately 404 million tenges .
Some Kazakh officials were outraged that local authorities in Uzbekistan had given very short notice of the impending disaster to the Kazakh side. They also accused Uzbekistan of downplaying the scale of the flood.
The resignation of Dariga Nazarbayeva
On May 2, Kazakh President Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev signed a decree on the termination of powers of Senate Chairman Dariga Nazarbayeva. Experts had different opinions on it.
It is generally accepted that exactly a year ago Kazakhstan had a controlled power transit from long-term leader Nursultan Nazarbayev to his successor, who many political analysts mistakenly called a “temporary figure”. The current president was not being taken seriously also because it was the daughter of Elbasy who occupied the second most important public office being the speaker of the Senate.
The situation enabled the opposition to speculate on “family power” and forecast that it was Dariga Nazarbayeva who would later become president. After her resignation, it was rumored that Tokayev is out of control, and Kazakhstan is on the verge of an elite war.
In this case, it seems that the resignation of Dariga Nazarbayeva has nothing to do with the struggle of the elites, although claims on strengthening the standing of Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev turned out to be very true. The fact of the matter is Nursultan Nazarbayev did not contend the decision but most probably approved it in the first place.
As time passed, the current president, having successfully adopted the first president’s course, has demonstrated his professional aptitude. Therefore, the resignation of Dariga Nazarbayeva is a logical follow-up to the power transit in Kazakhstan, where the first president continues to perform a commendable role.
Update Law on Political Parties
On May 25, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev has approved amendments to the law on political parties.
Among the main amendments to the law is lower hurdles to the number of political party members. Now, 20 thousand signatures instead of the former 40 thousand must be collected to register a party. Experts argue that the legislation still precludes the possibility of nominating non-partisan candidates.
The amendments also introduce a 30 percent quota for women and youth in party election lists. Experts note that this measure is intended towards simulating political modernization.
New protest law
On May 14, Senate deputies made 16 amendments to the bill on rallies. A proposal was made to abolish the requirement for the organizers of a rally to ensure participants do not hide their faces.
According to human rights activists, the new law still contradicts basic international standards. In particular, the organizers of a rally are obliged to notify the authorities ahead of time. The new law retains 12-point provisions for authorities to refuse a rally.
Another feature of the new law is that foreigners and unregistered organizations cannot organize a rally, therefore, prohibiting many influential opposition movements in Kazakhstan.
On May 4, the human rights organization Amnesty International called on the authorities to resume public discussion of the bill, as well as seek advice from international experts. Despite the appeals, the Kazakh President signed into legislation on protest policies on May 25.
Tokayev revokes EAEU development strategy
On May 19, the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council held a regular meeting via a videoconference.
In his speech, the President of Kazakhstan emphasized the draft paper On Development Strategies for Eurasian economic integration. While supporting the idea of adopting the strategy, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev said that some document provisions require further discussion and elaboration.
The Kazakh President believes that integration work should be tailored to the peculiarities of the national legal system and proceed from the “minimal sufficiency” principle in addressing harmonization and unification of national legislations. In addition, the President of Kazakhstan called for a considerate approach to expanding the powers of the Eurasian Economic Commission.
Following the summit, a strategic development document has been widely approved but not adopted. The Commission was requested to finalize the strategy.
Sale of Almaty Airport
On May 8, TAV, a Turkish Airports Holding, has purchased 100 percent of the Almaty International Airport’s shares. The airport was sold for 415 million US dollars.
According to the holding representatives, Almaty Airport has great growth potential for growth being strategically located in the middle of the Silk Road.
The Turkish holding’s share in the consortium will be at least 75 percent, and the shares will be transferred after completion of all legal procedures. Almaty Airport is now the fifteenth in Turkish holding’s portfolio.
Protests in the south of Kazakhstan
On May 12, about a hundred of volunteer military personnel from a special military call-up went to the Shymkent city akimat demanding to fulfill its promise to compensate volunteers.
On April 2, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev signed a decree on a special military call-up to form a paramilitary COVID-19 response team.
About a hundred volunteers have carried out disinfection work and maintained public order for more than a month. According to the protesters, the authorities did not fulfill their promises in the form of compensations and benefits.
The City Hall administration spoke to the protesters, promised to punish those responsible and compensate volunteers.
Note of protest from Azerbaijan
On May 2, the Kazakh ambassador in Baku has received a protest note in connection with the incident in the Caspian Sea.
According to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, on April 30, the coast guard of the Kazakh border service took up arms against Azerbaijani citizens during night patrols. One person was killed, two were injured as a result of the shooting. Another person is detained.
The Kazakh side claims that the border service, having found an illegally located vessel, attempted to detain the violators. Violators have been reportedly hit by ricochet.
As of May 1, Kyrgyzstan reported 756 active cases, 504 recovered and 8 deaths from coronavirus. By May 31, the number of coronavirus cases in the country totaled 1748, 350 of which are medical workers.
1,170 patients have recovered and 16 died. There are 2,241 people under observation.
On May 1, Kyrgyzstan resumed wthe ork of taxi services, industry ,and construction, among other businesses. Sanitary posts were dismantled in Bishkek.
On May 10, the government announced the end of the state of emergency and the abolition of curfews. The emergency rule will be maintained until the epidemiological situation stabilizes.
On May 11, the media and businesses providing financial and consumer services reconvened. In addition, the President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbai Jeenbekov signed a decree on the resumption of military discharge, as well as the spring call for urgent military and alternative services.
The service centers, shopping malls, car markets, hotels, among others, to reopen from May 21.
The clothing markets, catering points, public transport, swimming pools, fitness clubs, among others, are approved to reopen from May 25.
On May 11, the Russian-Kyrgyz Development Fund announced the third cluster of activities in response to the coronavirus crisis.
The response package contains the following items: 1) concessional loan product for agricultural development; 2) lowering the threshold for direct financing in the regions to 100 thousand US dollars; 3) concessional financing of a business that helps to combat COVID-19.
On March 31, 2020, the Kyrgyz government instructed to raise the Fund’s money for concessional lending to the economic sectors.
Foreign aid in the fight against COVID -19
- On May 20, Uzbekistan has sent the second batch of personal protective equipment in the amount for 248 thousand US dollars;
- On May 18, China sends 22 million KGS – worth humanitarian aid for medical purposes to the Armed Forces;
- On May 11, China allocates PPE, 100 thousand PCR tests and 1000 thermometers in the form of humanitarian aid;
- On May 8, the IMF had approved a second tranche of $ 121.1 million. It provides funding to support the mitigation of the pandemic’s impact;
- On May 6, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms the allocation of $ 1.38 million;
- On May 5, ADB signs an agreement providing budget support in the amount of US $ 50 million;
- On May 4, the Russian Ministry of Defense handed over 4.9 million KGS – worth protective equipment from radiation, biological and chemical hazards to the Armed Forces;
- On May 2, the Jordanian consulate donated food and personal hygiene products for 8 million KGS;
- On May 2, the Chinese Embassy donated 10 thousand medical masks, 300 goggles, 200 suits ,and 30 non-contact thermometers, as well as 1 million KGS;
- On April 30, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma sends the second part of the humanitarian aid (PCR tests and ventilation machines);
- On April 30, WHO donated PPE for $ 22,000;
Evacuation of citizens
146 Kyrgyz citizens arrived from the United States and Canada on May 23.
Between 14 to 17 May, 1,058 Kyrgyz citizens returned from Moscow to Bishkek.
541 Kyrgyz citizens arrived from the Russian city of Sol-Iletsk on May 7, whereas 101 of them tested positive for coronavirus.
On May 15, 330 and 156 Kyrgyz citizens arrived from Turkey and St. Petersburg respectively. On May 14, 107 citizens returned from Qatar and Kuwait.
A total of 538 Kyrgyz citizens returned from the UAE between April 26 and May 10.
The sentence remains in effect
On May 13, the Kyrgyz Supreme Court examined the cassation appeal of the lawyers of human rights activist Azimzhan Askarov, upholding the verdict of lower instances.
Azimzhan Askarov had been investigating cases of power abuse by law enforcement officials. In September 2010, a human rights activist was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of organizing riots and complicity in the murder of a policeman. Some human rights activists and international organizations consider the case against Askarov to be fabricated.
The trial was the last opportunity to appeal the verdict at the national level.
Conflicts on the border with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan
On May 8, another round of clashes along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border has precipitated an exchange of gunfire between the armed forces of the two countries.
The Kyrgyz border service says the conflict broke out among local residents. The border troops of the two countries pulled in to prevent the escalation of the conflict. However, while trying to quell the unrest, the Tajik border service suddenly fired mortar shells. Three servicemen of Kyrgyzstan were hit by bullets.
In turn, Tajikistan’s State Committee for National Security blamed the Kyrgyz side. According to them, the reason for the conflict was the arbitrary seizure of 4 hectares of land belonging to Tajikistan. Border guards of Kyrgyzstan also provoked conflict by firing on unarmed Tajik citizens. Two Tajik citizens suffered bullet wounds.
In the negotiations between the plenipotentiaries of the two countries, it was decided to withdraw the armed forces and strengthen the border services. Yet, on May 24, there has been another shooting between the border guards of the two countries.
On May 31, 2020, in the border zone of Kyrgyzstan’s Batken region, there has been a conflict between residents of the Chechme village and the Sokh enclave of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan respectively. A dozen citizens of the two states threw stones at each other and set houses on fire; some are wounded. The fight occurred following the purification of a water source in the Chechme village. The local authorities of the two states met to resolve the conflict.
Earlier on May 1, 2020, a dispute over a pasture occurred in the same area, when the Kyrgyz border guards fired warning shots into the air.
Mudflows in the south of Kyrgyzstan
From May 2 to 6, there have been destructive mudflows in the Jalal-Abad and Batken regions. The damage is estimated to be around 61.5 million soms.
Residential buildings, roads, various enterprises, and croplands have been severely damaged from the mudflows. People have also reportedly lost livestock.
The Kyrgyz Prime Minister instructed the Emergency Situations Ministry to rapidly address the impact of mudflows and take preventive measures to protect other potentially dangerous areas.
On May 22, Kyrgyz parliament was deliberating on a draft law on non-profit organizations (NPOs). Meanwhile, a group of civic activists and human rights activists gathered outside the parliament building to express their concern about the draft law.
Under the Bill, NPOs are obligated to annually provide additional reporting on funding sources. Experts believe that this initiative is another attempt by the authorities to control over the NGO activities.
It is a justified risk that reporting tools are used to exert pressure. After all, it is known that NGOs take an active part in the country’s public life discerning certain irregularities among state bodies.
Earlier, several NPOs undertook a legal analysis of the draft law, having found many legal norms not complying with Kyrgyzstan’s legislation.
Draft Law on the Manipulation of Information
On May 14, a draft law on information manipulation has been brought up for public discussion in Kyrgyzstan.
In order to stabilize and regulate unreliable information on the Internet, proponents of the bill proposed to oblige Internet providers to reveal personal information about their users, including electronic messages, to juridical and authorized bodies, which are entitled to make a decision on the pre-trial restriction of access to information.
Human rights activists claim that the bill establishes state censorship on the Internet. They believe that each citizen should have the right to anonymity on the Internet.
Between May 12 and 16, the head of the State Communications Agency and several National Security officers had been detained for corruption. The investigation team suggests the suspects violated the country’s legislation by selling state’s radio frequency resources at low prices.
The suspects on the case were both public officials and employees of mobile companies. One MP even accused Prime Minister Muhammedkalyi Abylgaziev of being involved in the case. After that, the Prime Minister has left for a short vacation, having said that he had nothing to do with the sale of frequencies.
Experts argue that a new corruption scandal erupted in Kyrgyzstan on the eve of the parliamentary elections scheduled for October 4, 2020.
Chon Kazat Movement
A new movement, the Chon Kazat (Great Campaign) has emerged in Kyrgyzstan’s political field. It literally calls for dekulakization of the rich.
In early May, one of the movement leaders has name-dropped several politicians in Kyrgyzstan accusing them of illegal enrichment. The video message has attracted controversy among social media users. After that, the financial police began verification of MP’s assets.
At a parliamentary meeting, deputies demanded an audit of the movement activities. Experts believe that the situation is being heated ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled for October 4, 2020.
Detention of human rights activist Ruziev
On May 29, The State Committee for National Security had detained the human rights activist, the head of the Ventus public association, 57-year-old Kamil Ruziev.
Ruziev was placed in a temporary detention facility for two days. In the Security Committee’s press statement, the human rights activist was suspected of “Fraud” and “Forgery of Documents”. But the article on “Fraud” had disappeared from the case before the trial started. An investigator said during the hearing that Ruziev is in the file as a witness.
Ruziev and civil society representatives think his detention has to do with his human rights activities. Ruziev himself went on a hunger strike following the arrest.
On May 31, the Karakol town court had placed human rights activist Kamil Ruziev under house arrest until July 29.
A decline in the number of German development projects
On May 6, the German Embassy in Bishkek announced that the German government has launched the “BMZ-2030” reform that reduces the number of partner countries, and Kyrgyzstan is among them.
The termination of technical and financial cooperation would affect bilateral programs implemented by the German development agencies GIZ and KfW. BMZ-2030 will not affect, however, the German federal agency programs.
The decision to terminate development cooperation is based on the assessment that the Kyrgyz Republic is no longer among the neediest countries in the world.
New freight route
A rail and road freight transport route between Turkey and Kyrgyzstan was opened on May 26.
Before that, cargo transportation between the two countries was made through the territory of Kazakhstan. The new route bypasses Kazakhstan through the territories of Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan.
The split in Atambayev’s party
The political council of the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) met on May 26. The present situation within the party was the only issue on the agenda.
SDPK’s acting chairman Asel Koduranova announced the suspension of the political council membership, whereas Ryskeldi Mombekov and Kunduz Zholdubaeva resigned as vice-chairmen. MP Irina Karamushkina and several other members of the Party denounced the suspension of their activities within SDPK.
Lately, there have been seemingly irreconcilable issues between the Party members. On May 21, the sons of ex-president Almazbek Atambayev denounced the registration of a new party, the Social Democrats of Kyrgyzstan that will participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections. The current members of the SDPK Party were outraged by the fact that the new party leaders did not consult and cooperate with associates.
As of May 1, Tajikistan reported 15 active coronavirus cases. By May 31, the number of coronavirus cases in the country totaled 3,807, whereas 1865 have recovered and 47 died.
Currently, Tajikistan ranks first among the Central Asian countries in the fatality rate from COVID-19. The media attest to an extremely difficult epidemiological situation in the country. Citizens also complain of overcrowded hospitals.
The kvtj.info website was launched in early May, where citizens could share information on fatal cases from pneumonia and coronavirus. However, on May 11, the Tajik authorities have blocked the website, asserting that the information is fake.
According to unofficial data, among the dead are 40 healthcare workers that treated patients with coronavirus. The health workers themselves contend that the reason for the mass infection was inadequate amounts of personal protective equipment. They had to purchase protective equipment for their own money.
Despite the daily increase in the number of cases, Tajikistan continues to refrain from stern quarantine rules. Public transport runs as usual, while freedom of movement is unrestricted.
Dushanbe City Hall extended the ban on the activities of all clothing markets, beauty salons, and car washes until June 15.
On May 21, about 50 percent of public officials in Dushanbe were sent on unpaid leave. This decision does not apply to services essential for city functioning.
The Special Coronavirus Headquarters extended school vacations until August 16.
The authorities of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) limited the entry from the country’s other regions, as well as from regions to the regional center.
Foreign aid in the fight against COVID -19
- Between May 26 to 29, Uzbekistan has sent 1000 tons of flour, 24 tons of medicines, as well as personal protective equipment;
- May 28, India sent humanitarian aid in the form of 4.6 tons of medicines;
- On May 25, Turkey handed over 50 thousand protective masks;
- On May 25, a group of virologists arrives from China bringing also 15 ventilators, medicines a,nd personal protective equipment for a total of $ 700 thousand;
- On May 18, the Uzbek company Uzelektroapparat sends 2 thousand protective overalls, 2 thousand goggles, 5 thousand respirators, 15 thousand gloves, 25 thousand medical masks, 40 thousand disposable masks;
- On May 17, UNICEF, with the support of the European Union, assists Tajikistan with 36 thousand overalls, 40 thousand masks, and 720 thermometers;
- On May 14, China assists Tajikistan with medical equipment and ventilators worth 2 million yuan;
- On May 13, Kazakhstan sends 5 thousand tons of flour;
- On May 12, Iran sends 6 tons of medicines;
- On May 12, ADB donated personal protective equipment worth $100 thousand;
- On May 10, China donated 17 ventilators and PPE worth $479.6 thousand;
- On May 8, Uzbekistan sends a group of virologists, along with humanitarian aid in the form of personal protective equipment, 10 ventilators, and 144 medical containers intended for the construction of a mobile hospital;
- On May 6, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allocated $ 1.68 million;
- On May 6, the IMF approved the allocation of $ 189.5 million under the rapid lending. The funds aimed for the balance of payments and budgetary needs.
Attack on a journalist
On May 11, Asia-Plus correspondent Abdullo Gurbati was attacked by unknown people. He believes the attack has to do with his work as a journalist.
Abdullo Gurbati became famous for his controversial publications, in which he criticized the authorities. The journalist said he had been receiving death threats by phone and been called “national traitor”. On May 15, the Tajik Interior Ministry filed criminal charges of the attack and asserted that investigation is under Ministry’s constant review.
Nonetheless, Abdullo Gurbati talked about another attack by three unknowns on May 29. The correspondent was attacked while reporting the impact of mudflows in the Khatlon region.
Both human rights organizations and the journalistic community are deeply concerned by the beating of the journalist. These incidents, they believe, damage Tajikistan’s international credibility.
Chinese mining workers riot
On May 21, 60 Chinese workers have vandalized the head office of the Tajik-Chinese mining company in Zarnisor town.The company’s management withholding wages was an apparent source of discontent. Others hypothesize that Chinese citizens demanded to return them home due to the increase in the number of cases in Tajikistan.
Negotiation attempts were unsuccessful. OMON guards arrived on the scene and were able to curb the riot. There are reportedly no casualties.
The regional administration advised the company to hurry with reimbursement for the last three months.
On May 14, there have been mudflows in villages of the Khuroson region after torrential rains. 338 residential buildings and household plots have been flooded. News outlets report 2 casualties.Photo: CABAR.asia
Through rescue efforts, 28 residential buildings have been cleared and 35 tents have been erected for local residents. Disaster relief efforts are ongoing.
There has been not a single case of coronavirus infection officially confirmed in Turkmenistan. At the same time, the number of gravesites in Ashgabat cemeteries has markedly increased. Furthermore, patients with symptoms similar to COVID-19 are admitted to the Ashgabat Infectious Diseases Hospital.
Despite this, the country held on a grand scale a military parade on May 9 in Ashgabat in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Great Patriotic War victory. This was the first military parade in the country’s history of the country in honor of Victory Day.
Enterprises and educational institutions measure the body temperature of the employees, students, and visitors. The local authorities also hold awareness-raising sessions on personal hygiene rules. Public places and public transport are being regularly disinfected.
Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov approved a Turkmenistan preparedness plan on May 15 to counter the spread of COVID-19. The plan envisions to modernize the physical infrastructure of the healthcare system and sustain the country’s socio-economic growth.
On July 1, the Turkish Airlines plans to resume flights to Turkmenistan, whereas Turkmen airlines decided to continue the suspension of international flights until June 20.
In full compliance with medical protocols, the Turkmen-Iranian border would reopen on June 1.
On May 13, 2020, thousand local residents went on the streets of Turkmenabad to protest the authorities’ inaction in response to the recent hurricane.
They also expressed their concerns regarding the lack of electricity, faulty sanitation services, flooded basements of apartment buildings, and mosquitoes. An unstable internet connection is another problem. Local residents believe the authorities are deliberately jamming communications in order to prevent information leakage on the situation in the region.
While local residents have sought to restore their homes by their own means, the Turkmen President sends humanitarian aid to Russia on May 5 in the form of food, building materials, and textiles.
Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov also offered assistance to Uzbekistan in addressing the impact of a dam break. The Turkmen President volunteered to provide the necessary equipment and personnel.
Turkmen authorities had virtually left local residents to deal with consequences of the disaster that killed at least 35 people by themselves.
Solidarity protests abroad
On May 15, more than 20 Turkmen citizens staged a protest in front of the country’s consulate in Turkey in solidarity with those affected by the hurricane. Protesters demanded the resignation of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.
Similar protests were held in Northern Cyprus. Turkmen citizens expressed dissatisfaction with the policies of authorities in Turkmenistan. The main challenge, they assert, is not being able to go back home.Turkmen citizens protesting in Cyprus and Washington. Photo: Chronicles of Turkmenistan
On May 11, Turkmen citizens living in the United States raised about $ 5,000 to help victims of the hurricane. The Turkmen security services, however, had hindered the transfer of money by blackmailing the local population.
Application for the WTO membership
On May 15, the Turkmen President signed a decree on “Turkmenistan’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) as an observer state”.
The Turkmen side sent an application, which will be considered during the next meeting of the WTO General Council.
Turkmenistan’s WTO membership was first discussed in 2011 during the European Commission’s visit to Ashgabat. The Commission said that the accession to WTO will improve the country’s trade relations with the European Union and give rise to Turkmenistan’s share in regional and global trade.
On May 27, authorities ordered improved protection for wheat crops to stem theft at all phases of the harvest. Both the Interior Ministry and the National Security Ministry assign their official to each team of grain pickers.
The land in Turkmenistan is state-owned, while farmers conduct their activities on a rental basis. The resulting crop is handed over to the state at a fixed price, which is extremely unprofitable for farmers.
As of May 1, Uzbekistan reported 2039 active cases, 1,133 recovered, and 9 deaths. By May 30, the number of coronavirus cases in the country totaled 3546, whereas 2783 have recovered and 14 died.
The Special Republican Commission for Coronavirus Control decided on May 8 to assign a quarantine color for each region in the country – red, yellow, and green.
Red zones include regions with new containment cases (until May 8). The current quarantine rules remain in regions labeled red, while the construction, grocery stores, banks, notaries, among other businesses, had been allowed to reopen.
Yellow zones are comprised of regions without new COVID-19 cases reported over the past 14 days (until May 8). Separate quarantine rules are still in force in these regions. Besides business allowed in the red zones, beauty salons, hotels, car service, and taxis had been approved for reopening.
To qualify as a green zone, a region would have had to report no new infections. In addition to restrictions lifted in red and yellow zones, parks would reopen, the vehicular movement would not require passes, and citizens can make appointments to state enterprises.
On May 14, the Republican Commission has decided to extend quarantine rule in Uzbekistan until June 1, 2020. Meanwhile, air and rail communications within the country are partially restored starting on May 18.
On May 18, Shavkat Mirziyoyev approved the next measures to support the population and business entities. Small businesses are exempted from property tax and land tax. They have a right to defer the payment of customs duty and excise tax for imported goods.
Ministries were instructed to provide additional state support and compensate interest costs: 1) for investment credits; 2) for loans in the amount of up to 500 million so’ms.
Hairdressers, shoemakers, bakers, blacksmiths, taxi drivers, carpenters, designers, and other 60 occupations representatives will be exempt from income tax.
Foreign aid in the fight against COVID -19
- Between May 6 and 22, the US government had allocated $ 5 million;
- From May 10 to May 23, the South Korean government had transferred $ 192 thousand and medical equipment ;
- On May 21, the Turkish government had sent 50 ventilators;
- On May 18, the IMF approves the allocation of $375 million to Uzbekistan under a rapid credit facility and via rapid financing instruments. The goal is to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic on the economy;
- On May 18, ADB approves a grant of $ 1.36 million for the purchase of medical equipment and PPE;
- On May 13, China transfers 2.5 tons of PPE for 2.5 million yuan to the Armed Forces;
- On April 30, the World Bank approves the allocation of $ 200 million.
Dam failure and flood
On May 1, the walls of Sardoba reservoir located in the Syrdarya region gave way after heavy rains and windstorm. 25 settlements of three districts (Sardobe, Mirzaabad, and Akyltansky), 34 social facilities, and 19.5 thousand hectares of agricultural croplands were affected by the dam break. About 30 thousand pets were reported missing.
70 thousand people had been evacuated and later placed in special institutions on the first day. 56 people have been hospitalized with various injuries. 6 people – two women and four men – have been killed. Authorities also reported the death of a 14-year-old girl and her 9-year-old brother.
During shore protection work, the erupted stream headed into the Abay canal of the Akaltyn region and led to Lake Arnasay in the Jizzakh region. Flooding can cost the budget a minimum of 1.5 trillion so’ms.
A criminal case was instituted for a man-made disaster on the facts of official negligence and violations of safety rules for construction works.
The Sardobin reservoir was completed in 2017. Officials in Uzbekistan claim that the failure has been caused by extreme weather events. Some experts suggest that the dam break was a result of construction flaws. Others emphasize that relatives of senior Uzbek officials were engaged in the facility construction.
Assistance for victims of the dam break
On May 14, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev at a meeting with the Syr Darya region residents said that three housing estates with five-story houses for 2640 apartments would be built in the affected areas. 1800 houses would also be restored.Photo: president.uz
Some countries donated humanitarian assistance to victims of the disaster. On May 11, the Kyrgyz government sent aid in the form of 1,000 tons of cement, 100 tons of rice and 10 tons of vegetable oil. On May 20, Tajikistan sent assistance in the form of building materials (cement, slate, paint, nails).
On May 18, the Korean agency KOICA assisted with personal hygiene products, essentials goods, and baby food. On May 8, Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov allocated $ 15 million – 10 million to Uzbekistan and 5 million to Kazakhstan. USAID allocated $ 100,000.
Repatriating the assets from France
On May 14, Uzbekistan says it has received from France assets worth $ 10 million belonging to Gulnara Karimova. They have been transferred to the state coffers.
The Justice Ministry reports that these funds were acquired illegally. Authorized bodies of several countries help to facilitate the return of assets worth $1.3 billion acquired by the late president’s elder daughter.
In February 2020, Karimova expressed suggested dismissing her court case again in exchange offering to return $ 686 million. The deal fell through, however.
On May 15, the State Committee on Ecology has recognized as inadmissible the sand mining in the Yazyavan desert declared as a state natural monument.
Earlier, one of the state enterprises was granted a permit to extract sand for completing the Yazyavan reservoir construction. Environmental NGOs addressed an appeal to the president and government. The appeal says that society is extremely concerned about the state’s intention to destroy the only geomorphological and paleontological natural territory in Uzbekistan.
According to the working group, the extraction of sand reserves may lead to extinction and decrease in the number of species listed in the Red Book. Besides, this can prompt a rise in the groundwater level.
Sentence to Saifulin
On May 25, a military court of Uzbekistan sentenced Rafik Sayfulin, former director of the Institute for Strategic and Interregional Studies, to 12 years in prison. The verdict was brought under the article of “Treason”.
Rafik Sayfulin was arrested in July 2019 for “espionage in favor of Russia” and “the disclosure of state secrets”. The accused had pleaded he transmitted analytical findings, but not discreet information.
At the beginning of the year, about ten special services officers in Uzbekistan were accused of high treason. In March, a military court found journalist Vladimir Kaloshin guilty of treason. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Russia ready to assist in cross-border issues
On May 26, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Russia is intended to provide intermediary services resolving border issues between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
On May 29, the Tajik Foreign Ministry stated that delimitation and demarcation of state borders is an internal matter of the CSTO member states and should proceed exclusively on a bilateral basis.
The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry felt strongly it was important for negotiations to be bilateral and result-oriented.
On May 19, the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council (SEEC) held a regular meeting via a videoconference.
The meeting was attended by the Presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, as well as Armenia’s Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission.
Nine documents were adopted during the meeting. SEEC approved the main guidelines for the Eurasian Economic Union States’ macroeconomic policy for 2020 – 2021. The EEU countries’ governments were instructed to have the liberalization program for cabotage road transportation implemented.
The EEU Heads of State also approved amendments to the EEC agreement, which provide for the warrant of different VAT rules.
On May 26, the US government announced the allocation of $ 2 million to support migrants from Central Asia.
Millions of Central Asian migrants were in distress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not being able to send remittances left families of migrants without resources and remedies.
The United States has been providing the necessary assistance, including information resources, support for alternative livelihoods, alongside legal and psychological support.
CIS Council meeting
On May 29, the Council of Heads of Government of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) held a regular meeting via a videoconference under Uzbekistan’s chairmanship.
The meeting was attended by the prime ministers of Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan; as well as vice prime ministers of Kyrgyzstan and Armenia. Also at the meeting were the Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan and the Chairman of the CIS Executive Committee.
The participants discussed economic interaction and other areas of CIS format, including joint efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus.
The Council also approved the CIS economic development strategy for the period until 2030.
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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 Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic, “The ceremony of handing over the second batch of humanitarian aid from the Republic of Uzbekistan to the Kyrgyz Republic, initiated by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Sh.M. Mirziyoyev, as part of the fight against coronavirus in the country”, May 20, 2020, https: // mfa. gov.kg/en/Main-menu/Press-service/novosti/sostoyalas-ceremoniya-peredachi-vtoroy-partii-gumanitarnoy-pomoshchi-respubliki-uzbekistan-kyrgyzskoy-respublike-napravlennoy-po-iniciative-prezidentuzbekublik shmmirziyoeva-v-ramkah-borby-s-koronavirusom-v-strane
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 Sputnik, “More than $ 120 million is allocated to Kyrgyzstan. What for?”, May 9, 2020, https://ru.sputnik.kg/economy/20200509/1048216099/mvf-pomoshch-kredit-finansy.html
 US Embassy in Bishkek, “The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allocates $ 1.38 million to counteract the spread of COVID-19 in the Kyrgyz Republic,” May 14, 2020, https://kg.usembassy.gov/en/ cdc-provides-1-38-million-for-covid-19-response-in-the-kyrgyz-republic-ru /
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 Avaz Yuldashev, “The Mayor of Dushanbe invited Chinese virologists to help the capital’s doctors”, Asia-Plus, May 25, 2020, https://asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/society/20200525/gruppa-kitaiskih-virusologov- pribila-v-dushanbe-chtobi-pomoch-poborot-koronavirus
 Asia-Plus, “Uzbek partners of a Tajik company sent aid to Tajikistan”, May 22, 2020, https://asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/society/20200522/uzbekskie-partneri-tadzhikskoi-kompanii-otpravili- v-tadzhikistan-pomotsh
 Asia-Plus, “36 thousand overalls, 40 thousand masks and 720 thermometers: Dushanbe receives help from UNICEF and the EU”, May 19, 2020, https://asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/society/20200519/ 36-tis-kombinezonov-40-tis-masok-i-720-termometrov-es-i-yunisef-otpravili-v-dushanbe-pervuyu-partiyu-pomotshi
 Avaz Yuldashev, “The Chinese Army has supported Tajik military doctors,” Asia-Plus, May 14, 2020, https://asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/security/20200514/armiya-kitaya-okazala-podderzhku- tadzhikskim-voennim-medikam
 CIS Executive Committee, Tajikistan received humanitarian assistance from Kazakhstan ”, May 13, 2020, http://cis.minsk.by/news/14438/tadzhikistan_poluchil_ot_kazahstana_gumanitarnuju_pomosch
 Asia-Plus, “Iran sent 6 tons of medicines to Tajikistan,” May 12, 2020, https://asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/society/20200512/iran-otpravil-v-tadzhikistan -6-tonn-medikamentov-v-kachestve-gumpomotshi
 Avesta.tj, “ADB donated $ 100,000 worth humanitarian aid to Tajikistan,” May 12, 2020, http://avesta.tj/2020/05/12/abr-peredal-tadzhikistanu-gumanitarnuyu-pomoshh-na-100 -tys /
 Avesta.tj, “China continues to provide assistance to Tajikistan in the fight against coronavirus”, May 12, 2020, http://avesta.tj/2020/05/12/kitaj-prodolzhaet-okazyvat-tadzhikistanu-pomoshh-v-borbe -s-koronavirusom /
 US Embassy in Tajikistan, “US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Announces US $ 1.69 Million to Combat the COVID-19 Epidemic in Tajikistan,” May 6, 2020, https://tj.usembassy.gov/ com / us-centers-for-disease-control-pledges-1-69-million-for-fight-against-covid-19-in-tajikistan-en /
 International Monetary Fund, “The IMF Executive Board approved the provision of $ 189.5 million to Tajikistan under the RCF mechanism to combat the COVID-19 pandemic,” May 6, 2020, https://www.imf.org/en/News / Articles / 2020/05/06 / pr20207-tajikistan-imf-executive-board-approves-a-us-189-5m-rcf-disbursement-to-address-covid19
 Cabar.asia, “An attack that will increase self-censorship in Tajikistan,” May 19, 2020, https://cabar.asia/en/an-attack-that-will-increase-self-censorship-in-tajikistan/
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 Asia-Plus, “The Journalistic Community of Tajikistan Calls on Law Enforcement Agencies to Prevent Beatings of Journalists,” May 29, 2020, https://asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/society/20200529/zhurnalistskoe-soobtshestvo-tadzhikistana-prizivaet-pravoohranitelnie -organi-predotvratit-izbieniya-zhurnalistov
 Muso Bobohodzhiev, “The tragedy in Khuroson. Authorities promise, residents believe and wait ”, Asia-Plus, May 19, 2020, https://asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/incidents/20200519/glava-hurosonskogo-raiona-35-domov-bili-povrezhdeni-v -rezultate-shoda-selevogo-potoka
 CIS Executive Committee, “Turkmenistan has developed a Pandemic and Rapid Response Plan”, May 18, 2020, http://www.cis.minsk.by/news/14508/v_turkmenistane_razrabotan_plan_protivodejstvija_pandemii_i_prinjatija_meragirovangogo
 Turkmenportal, “Turkish Airlines announced the date of resuming flights to Turkmenistan,” May 28, 2020, https://turkmenportal.com/blog/27819/turkish-airlines-obyavili-datu-vozobnovleniya-poletov-v-turkmenistan
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