Settling Debts

Predictably, Naftogaz Ukrainy CEO Aleksei Ivchenko has reacted angrily to Turkmen claims that Kiev owes money to Ashgabat for gas deliveries. In a press conference on Monday, Ivchenko told reporters sought to present Ukraine’s position over the controversy: “Our outstanding debts are zero. … There are no grounds for insulting Ukraine.” Ivchenko specified that Kiev did owe Turkmenistan goods worth $75 million for previous gas deliveries. He also claimed that the delivery of these materials had not been carried out as the Turkmen government had failed to specify which goods they wished to receive. Ivchenko also accused Ashgabat of failing…

Foul Mood

The recently established Turkmen dissident web site, Turkmenskaya Iskra (Turkmen Spark), recently reported the rare occurrence of anti-government protests in some areas of the country. In Turkmenbashi Square in Mary a statue of President Saparmurat brandishing a copy of the Rukhnama was damaged on February 17. Though the identity of the culprit is not yet known, the act was succeeded by widespread arrests and interrogations across the city. Meanwhile, national artist Amansary Khadjiev was summoned to Mary to repair the monument, which had the hand bearing the Rukhnama snapped off. On the same day, in a town centre in the…

Low-level heads roll, and the intrigue continues

Things are heating up in Kazakhstan over the murder of opposition leader Altynbek Sarsenbaev. The Government of Kazakhstan has realized that they can not let this one slide; the furor, both internally and internationally is just too great. The story has made all major international papers, including the economist, and most mention that it is not the first of its kind. Kazakhstan is quickly becoming even more strongly associated than it already is with despotism, political intrigue, and murder. Today six officers from Kazakhstan’s security service have been arrested in connection with the murder, and have already confessed to murder.…

Aggressive Democracy

There are practically no honest despots anymore. It is testament to just how thoroughly democracy has won the war of ideas that even the most stalwart of absolute rulers still feel inclined to pay lip service to democracy. Even Turkmenistan’s Niyazov has referenced presidential elections in the future. Tajikistan is not the bottom of the barrel in terms of authoritarianism (though it is not winning any prizes either), but President Rakhmanov is not wasting any time in ensuring that that formality for the legitimacy of a modern country – a presidential election – goes exactly how he wants it to.…

Fighting Back

Ukraine has reacted aggressively to Turkmenistan latest threat to hike gas prices yet again. Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk suggested that Turkmenistan’s move was most likely an attempt to extricate itself from deals that it now realises it cannot fulfil. In remarks to journalists reported by Interfax he said: “There is reason to believe that the Turkmen side is starting to move away from reached agreements and so in such a case, the best defence is offence. Turkmenistan has in effect signed contracts with Russian and Ukrainian companies for two times more volume than it is able to export.” On its…

Demolition Men

According to a Turkmen Initiative of Human Rights press release out last week, the local authorities undertook an extensive demolition drive in September last year of seaside country homes in the Caspian coast town of Turkmenbashi, formerly Krasnovodsk. Witnesses report that the buildings were destroyed by soldiers under the command of regional officials. The dachas in question were first built in the 1970s, when their owners were awarded the grounds by the local municipality. As one former resident complained: “All at once, they have taken everything away from us. It is disgraceful that they wouldn’t even let us take away…

Iran to build a hydropower plant in Tajikistan

Iran has signed a trilateral agreement with Tajikistan and Afghanistan for the construction of Sangtuda-2 power plant in Tajikistan and the distribution of electricity from Tajikistan to Iran (via Afghanistan). The power plant is supposed to provide additional 1bln kWt/h of electricity generation capacity to Tajikistan and will mainly be financed by Iranian money (US$180 vs. US$40 by Tajik government). According to the terms of the agreement the profits of the power plant will go to the Iranian government for 12.5 years after which the ownership of the power plant will be transferred to the Tajik government. Sangtuda-2 is expected…

Vienna in Almaty

The construction industry in Kazakhstan is booming (although its success depends directly on the performance of the oil and gas sector) – and in order to create a buzz on Almaty’s and Astana’s property markets, very creative ideas are needed. So how about a ‘Vienna de luxe’, a multi-million dollar construction project to be realised in Almaty? An Austrian architect and construction office has secured a deal to build a big residential quarter, reports the Austrian state television ORF: “During the tender of the project we succeeded mostly against Turkish companies due to our specifically Viennese concept. Because the Kazakh…

An artist’s view

Through Google Video, you can access one of Swiss artist Da Vaz’s videos on Kazakhstan. This, well, unorthodox artist has been travelling through Kazakhstan and produced a 1.5-hour documentary witout ‘annoying’ commentary. It contains very interesting perspectives from throughout the country – some bleak, some rather funny – and is recommended viewing for all those who have a boring assignment to do and can afford to have a Google Video window open on the edge of the screen. The choice of music throughout the film ranges from traditional Kazakh music via Abba (!) to full-blown club tunes (some of which…

Building Relationships

French construction firm Bouygues has consolidated its position in the Turkmen market by securing new contracts for the reconstruction of the facade of the Turkmen state university and the building of the physics and mathematics faculty. Bouygues CEO Martin Bouygues discussed the projects with President Saparmurat Niyazov in a meeting on Friday. According to NewsCentralAsia, they also spoke about the possibility of the creation of a permanent site for the Khalk Maslahaty. The Khalk Maslahaty, or People’s Council, generally meets once a year, though often in different cities. In speaking about his aspirations for the institution’s site Niyazov called for…

HIV in Turkmenistan

A World Health Organisation report on health in Turkmenistan, published in 2000, stated that AIDS was not a problem in Turkmenistan. Up till 1997, only one case of HIV had been reported in the country. That notwithstanding, the government has insisted that it does take the problem seriously. During a Special Session of the UN General Assembly on HIV/AIDS in June 2001, Aksoltan Ataeva, head of the Turkmen delegation, pledged her country’s commitment to combating the disease, arguing that there could be no absolute barrier against it. In support of this, she cited a health initiative endorsed by President Saparmurat…

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