News Digest

31 March 2010 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (04/07/2010 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Kazakh oil company leaders meet with striking workers
17 March
Regional government officials and KazMunaiGaz oil and gas company managers are holding talks today with striking oil workers in the southwestern town of Zhanaozen, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports. KazMunaiGaz President Qayirgeldy Qabyldin visited the town on March 16 and held talks with the strikers. The two sides agreed to set up a conciliation commission to discuss the strikers' demands. Union leader and striker Tabyn Ergenov told RFE/RL that the strikers elected 12 delegates to take part in the conciliation commission, which has begun its work. Several thousand workers at OzenMunaiGaz, a KazMunaiGaz affiliate, have been on strike since March 4. They are demanding the replacement of the official trade union leader; the annuling of the decision to change the workers wage scale, which they say reduced their wages; cuts in their annual work output; and the resignation of OzenMunaiGaz's director. The last demand was met on March 16 when OzenMunaiGaz head Baqytqali Biseken was fired. Union leader Ergenov says the strike will continue during the talks within the framework of the conciliation commission. (RFE/RL)

17 March 2010 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (03/18/2010 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Forced move puts central Asian library’s rare collection at risk
6 March
One of the most prestigious libraries in Central Asia has been forced to move, potentially endangering some of its ancient and rare documents, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports. The buildings housing the Alisher Navoi Library in Tashkent -- which with 10 million books in 75 different languages is among the region's largest -- were demolished on March 4. The library also has some of Central Asia's most important historical documents. In 2003, the library lost its original building in downtown Tashkent, which was demolished to make room for a new building for the Senate, the upper chamber of the Uzbek parliament. Officials had since moved the library to buildings vacated by the Tashkent city administration and the Committee of State Security. Library director Malika Matmurodova told RFE/RL that the books, historical documents, and manuscripts are currently being transported to various different government buildings around the Uzbek capital. Farida Nosirova, the chief of the library's preservation department, told RFE/RL that all the books -- especially manuscripts that are centuries old -- need to be kept under special conditions that do not exist at present. She said there are many ancient manuscripts written in Farsi and Arabic that need extremely urgent care or they could be damaged beyond repair. The Alisher Navoi Library was established in Tashkent in 1870 but has not functioned normally since it was moved in 2003. (RFE/RL)

3 March 2010 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (03/05/2010 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Kazakh oil transit more economical via Poland than Ukraine – company chief
18 March
Diverting Kazakh oil supplies towards Poland turned out to be more cost-effective, head of national gas company KazMunayGas Kairgeldy Kabyldin told a press conference in Astana on Thursday. "We asked for help from our Russian colleagues, who suggested sending supplies towards [Poland], which turned out to be economically more effective than towards Odesa," he said, adding that 3.5 million tonnes of Kazakh oil had been diverted towards Gdansk. In late 2009, Ukrainian monopolist Ukrtransnafta notified KazTransOil in writing about the unilateral termination of the contract on Kazakh oil transit via Ukraine as of January 26, 2010. At the same time, the Kazakh-Ukrainian intergovernmental cooperation agreement on the supply and transit of Kazakh oil to and via Ukraine, signed on June 1, 2004, remains valid. The February supplies of Kazakh oil will be shipped towards Poland (Gdansk). Ukratransnafta will be seeking to increase the oil transit fee for Kazakhstan, said Yuriy Prodan, Ukraine's Fuel and Energy Minister. "Commercial talks are under way about the price of transportation. If the parties are satisfied with the price and quantities, a relevant agreement will be signed," he said. (Interfax)

17 February 2010 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (02/17/2010 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Iran spends lavishly on gas infrastructure
3 February
Tehran announced plans to spend roughly $9 billion to develop its domestic natural gas infrastructure as part of a five-year development plan, officials said. Javad Owji, the head of the National Iranian Gas Co., said there are plans to build thousands of miles of pipelines inside the country, the Petroenergy Information Network in Iran reports. "Construction of 3,000-3,700 miles of gas pipelines and 20-22 pressure control stations is included in the development plan for 2010-2015," he said. Iran sits on some of the largest natural gas deposits in the world, hosting the giant South Pars gas complex in the Persian Gulf. A weak domestic capacity and pressure from economic sanctions over its controversial nuclear program prevents the Islamic republic from realizing its full capacity, however. Nevertheless, Iran has made some progress in expanding its client base, reaching deals with Azerbaijan for natural gas exports through northern arteries. Tehran points to its lucrative gas reserves to make the case for a role in Europe's Nabucco pipeline, though Western powers have said Iran will play no part in the project. Islamabad and Tehran, meanwhile, expect to sign off on a long-delayed pipeline from South Pars as early as next week. (UPI)

3 February 2010 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (02/03/2010 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Kazakhstan to use Finland as example to spur development – Nazarbayev
22 January
Kazakhstan needs to adopt practices used by Finland to develop in areas such as business, education and science, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said. "Previously, we learnt from the "Southeast Asian tigers" [Singapore]. And our choice was right at that time. We copied their strategy and developed. But this stage has come to an end. Now we need to learn from Finland," Nazarbayev said in Astana on Friday, addressing the government's session on the country's socioeconomic development in 2009. "We have visited [Finland] and studied processes there. We have all the necessary documents," he said. Kazakhstan should use Finland's experience of maintaining "high education standards, competition during the distribution of funds among scientific research institutions and sophisticated national infrastructure," Nazarbayev said. Kazakhstan should also borrow Finland's ability to "unite the efforts of the state, science and business," he said. "In the past, we studied and applied the experience of Southeast Asia. But today we will learn from Finland. It would be good if we managed to do even better than them," Nazarbayev said. (Interfax)

20 January 2010 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (01/20/2010 issue of the CACI Analyst)

28 December
Russia is planning to double its intake of natural gas from Azerbaijan in a potential challenge to European efforts to engage the Eurasian nation in the independent Nabucco gas pipeline network. The Russian Novosti news agency quoted senior Azerbaijan official Rovnag Abdullayev as saying supplies to Russia would double to 35.3 billion cubic feet from 2010. It was unclear if a new deal had been signed in addition to contracts initialed in October. Abdullaev, president of Azerbaijan's state oil and gas company Socar, said: "We have held negotiations. Azerbaijan has a potential to increase gas supplies, we will supply Russia with 1 billion cubic meters (35.3 billion cubic feet) of gas in 2010." Azerbaijan and Russia signed contracts Oct. 14 for the supply of 17.65 billion cubic feet of Azerbaijan natural gas to Russia, with the option to increase the volume. The prospect of double the contracted quantity of natural gas ending up in Russia, along with Azeri contracts to supply gas to Iran, further whittles down supplies that may be available if and when the Nabucco pipeline to Europe goes on stream. The $11.3 billion Nabucco gas pipeline is intended to pool gas supplies from Central Asian and Middle Eastern supplies for transmission to Europe through Turkey. The pipeline is backed by the West as an alternative to European dependence on Russian gas. However, while Nabucco is still in a planning stage, China has opened a 1,138-mile pipeline to Turkmenistan and begun taking delivery of gas from that country, originally a potential participant in the Nabucco project. The pipeline has the capacity to pump about 1.6 trillion cubic feet of gas and has made China one of the largest consumers of gas from Central Asia. The China-Turkmenistan pipeline also signals a geopolitical shift in the region because, until recently, Turkmenistan supplied most of its gas to Russia. The Nabucco pipeline project likewise aims to wean suppliers from Russia and to bypass Russian territory, passing through Turkey instead. Nabucco would utilize gas supplies from Central Asia as well as the Middle East, except Iran, which is emerging as a major consumer of Azerbaijan gas. Earlier in December, Azerbaijan signed an agreement with Iran to deliver natural gas to the northern Iranian provinces through an existing 916-mile Kazi-Magomed-Astara gas pipeline. The deal involves export of 17.6 billion cubic feet a year of gas -- a fraction of the pipeline's capacity of 353 billion cubic feet per year. Both sides have discussed installing new compression stations on the pipeline to increase its throughput capacity. Mohammad Bagher Bahrami, the Iranian ambassador to Azerbaijan, said his country plans to buy at least 175 billion cubic feet of Azeri gas in the future. If implemented the deal will further reduce gas supplies that may be available for the planned Nabucco pipeline. (UPI)

23 December 2009 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (12/23/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Dashnaks Plan More Protests Against Turkish-Armenian Protocols
14 December
A leading member of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) has said the party will launch street protests in early January aimed at scuttling implementation of the Turkish-Armenian protocols signed two months ago, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The Armenian Constitutional Court is scheduled to start assessing the accords on January 12. Vahan Hovannisian said today the party has received numerous calls to hold "serious actions of protest" on the eve of the announcement of the Constitutional Court decision. He said that "seeing that a popular wave [of protest] is again rising, we can state for certain that there will be no calm in Armenia during those days." Dashnaktsutyun quit the four-party coalition government in April to protest President Serzh Sarkisian's policy of rapprochement with Turkey. The party staged protests against the Turkish-Armenian protocols signed in Zurich on October 10, which it considers a sellout. The party is particularly unhappy with Yerevan's formal recognition of the existing Turkish-Armenian border and its acceptance of a Turkish proposal to set up a joint commission of historians that would research the mass killings of Armenians at the end of the Ottoman Empire. (RFE/RL)

9 December 2009 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (12/10/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Eight bombs defused on border between Dagestan and Chechnya
29 November
Law enforcers discovered and neutralized eight booby traps during preventive efforts conducted on the administrative border between the republics of Dagestan and Chechnya on November 27-29, the press service of the Dagestani Interior Ministry told Interfax on Sunday. The press service said the efforts were conducted by the Dagestani police together with operatives and Interior Troops. "During the operation eight booby traps planted in the routes of operative and search teams were discovered and defused. One serviceman was slightly wounded in the process," a ministry spokesman said. (Interfax)

25 November 2009 News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (12/02/2009 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Slain Kazakh Opposition Figure’s son gets Government Job

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