The report (which isn’t available on Bild’s site) said President Nursultan Nazarbayev was in the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf for unspecified treatment. Nazarbayev is meant to be on a short vacation, according to his office.
Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry referred EurasiaNet.org’s queries about his whereabouts to the president’s office, which could not immediately be reached for comment. Sources in Germany didn’t confirm the Bild report – the Federal Foreign Office told AFP it had no knowledge of Nazarbayev being in Hamburg, while Reuters quoted the hospital itself refusing to confirm or deny the news and a spokeswoman at the Kazakh embassy in Berlin saying she couldn’t confirm it either. “He's on vacation and he could be anywhere in the world," Reuters quoted the spokeswoman as saying.
Nazarbayev, who’s been at Kazakhstan’s helm for two decades, turned 71 earlier this month. He appears to be in a robust physical and mental condition, but any sign that his health is failing would cause concern among foreign investors, and among members of the Kazakh elite who’ve fared so well under his rule. Even as the succession issue looms ever larger as he ages, Nazarbayev has given no sign that he’s grooming anyone to take over, potentially paving the way for a vicious succession battle.
A shake-up of Kazakhstan’s political scene is under way with a revamped political party in Astana seemingly destined to play the role of tame opposition to the ruling party, Nur Otan. Analysts are cautioning that the apparent attempt by Astana officials to micromanage politics could backfire.
British rock star Sting didn’t know what he was getting himself into when he cancelled a concert in Astana earlier this month in protest at Kazakhstan's treatment of striking energy-sector workers.
Now, two disgruntled former cops who were fired for breaches of discipline have written to the former Police frontman asking him to intervene in their case, Tengri News reports.
Galiya Mukhambetova and Kumisbek Kanymbayev were fired from the police department in the western city of Aktobe last year, accused of involvement in the disappearance of top-secret case materials. They now face charges, which they deny, over the disappearance of the documents – which later turned up.
In a bid to clear their names and win reinstatement, the ex-officers have turned to Sting to answer their prayers. “I’m sure Sting will investigate our problem, and then the Kazakh authorities will pay attention to us,” Mukhambetova said.
She may be investing too much hope in the powers of the legendary rock star: His concert cancellation has so far done nothing to help the striking energy workers in western Kazakhstan.
Their industrial action over salaries and trade union rights has just entered its third month, and state oil and gas company KazMunayGaz is adamant that it won’t bow to their demands.
The company says the strike is illegal – a position backed by the courts – and has already fired hundreds of workers. Natalya Sokolova, a lawyer advising the strikers, is in detention facing charges of inciting social enmity, which carry a maximum 10-year prison sentence.
There have been a few interesting twists and turns lately in the fortunes of some implacable foreign-based foes of Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
London-based oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov is on the up – he’s currently rejoicing over news that the UK authorities have agreed to grant him political asylum, a development that’s sure to enrage Astana.
“Mr Ablyazov’s application for political asylum was based on the fact that if he were to return to Kazakhstan he would be persecuted because of his political opinions,” RLF Partnership Ltd., which represents Ablyazov’s interests, said in a statement e-mailed on July 12.
Backing his claims, Ablyazov points to a prison sentence he served in Kazakhstan in the early 2000s on corruption charges. He was imprisoned shortly after becoming a founder member of a political reform movement.
BTA is now suing Ablyazov – who denies any wrongdoing – in London’s High Court, alleging that he defrauded the bank of $295 million. But in a setback to his case, earlier this month a witness admitted lying in court, the London Evening Standard reported.
The manhunt for a group suspected of the premeditated killing of two police officers in the western Kazakhstan village of Shubarshi on June 30 has prompted a bloodbath by the standards of normally tranquil Kazakhstan. So far, 13 are dead. But authorities are, once again, mysteriously intent on ruling out any connection with Islamic movements.
After a major security operation – and a $100,000 reward offered for information – the group was tracked down to a house in a nearby village, Kenkiyak, on July 8. Nine suspects and one police officer were killed in an ensuing shootout (another security forces officer died earlier when someone opened fire on him during the manhunt).
The authorities offered a baffling explanation for the incident: The group was engaged in organized crime while sheltering behind the guise of religion.
“For some time on the territory of Aktobe Region’s Temir District an organized criminal group has been operating which, using religious ideas as a cover, was engaged in theft from a pipeline near the villages of Shubarshi and Kenkiyak, and also committed other crimes of a mercenary and violent nature,” Aktobe Region police spokesman Almat Imangaliyev explained.
This is a rather enigmatic explanation. Why would they shelter behind religion, and what does that mean anyway?
The sparkling azure Great Almaty Lake in the Tian Shan mountains outside Kazakhstan’s commercial capital is usually a tranquil spot, but this summer it is a hive of activity: a film crew has descended to shoot a Kazakh historical epic, a tale of love and war set against the backdrop of some of the country’s most sumptuous scenery.
Just what is going on in western Kazakhstan? Two police officers slaughtered in a village on June 30, an elite task unit officer killed trying to hunt down the killers, and the relative of one suspect shot dead while fleeing from the security forces – it sounds more like troubled Afghanistan than usually tranquil Kazakhstan.
Adding to the intrigue, this bout of violence comes in the wake of a May suicide bomb attack in the western oil city of Aktobe that authorities dismissed as the work of the mafia.
This time, police “do not rule out the involvement of religious extremists in the murder of the police officers,” Kazakhstan Today reported as security forces continue to hunt the killers.
The two officers were killed in the village of Shubarshi, 250 kilometers from Aktobe, when attackers set upon their checkpoint, shot them, and fled the scene.
Investigators have named six men as suspects -- four from Shubarshi and two from the nearby villages of Kenkiyak and Sarykol. Five are men in their twenties; one is over 40.
One member of the security forces from the elite Arlan task force has already been killed in the ongoing operation to capture the suspects, Kazakhstan Today reports.
With President Nursultan Nazarbayev ensconced in power for another five years following his April reelection, attention in Kazakhstan is turning to parliamentary politics.
Elections aren’t due until August 2012, but the political scene is already getting a shake-up as Kazakhstan – which has a single-party parliament – contemplates the novel prospect of embracing a multiparty legislature.
What party could be more fit for the role of “parliamentary opposition” than one headed by a man who was a member of the Nur Otan party (led by Nazarbayev, the only party in parliament) until the day before he was elected leader of an “opposition” party?
Step forward Ak Zhol and new leader Azat Peruashev, who quit Nur Otan on July 1 and became Ak Zhol leader the very next day.
Peruashev certainly has good connections: He works with Nazarbayev’s powerful son-in-law Timur Kulibayev at the Atameken Union, a business lobby. Peruashev is chairman; Kulibayev chairs Atameken's presidium.
Pop star Sting has been stung yet again by his musical machinations in the Stans.
After agreeing to wow an audience in the Kazakh capital on July 4 as part of Astana’s annual city day celebrations, which just happen to coincide with the birthday of strongman President Nursultan Nazarbayev on July 6, he abruptly announced the day before the concert that he’s pulling out. It seems Sting has had an attack of conscience over the treatment of protesting oil workers in western Kazakhstan, which he said was brought to his attention by Amnesty International.
“Hunger strikes, imprisoned workers and tens of thousands on strike represents a virtual picket line which I have no intention of crossing,” Sting said in a sanctimonious statement. “The Kazakh gas and oil workers and their families need our support and the spotlight of the international media on their situation in the hope of bringing about positive change.”
Hot on the heels of a silver screen version of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s early life, The Sky of My Childhood, comes a stage version about the dramatic rise of the man officially known as Leader of the Nation.
Deep Roots (in Kazakh Teren Tamyrlar), written by Yerkin Zhuasbek and directed by Nurlan Zhumaniyazov, premieres at Astana’s Bayseitova Opera and Ballet Theater on July 2 and promises to offer a whimsical view of the life of Nazarbayev, who rose from a poor rural background and an early career as a steelworker to become the strongman president of Kazakhstan, which incidentally marks its 20th anniversary of independence this year.
The play takes place in a forest near Astana – the new capital that is Nazarbayev’s brainchild – and takes the form of an allegory, Zhuasbek said in the run-up to the premiere in remarks quoted by Kazakhstan Today.
The president goes there to admire the view and meets Zhaynak, an elderly man of the forest. Zhaynak, who “believes that ‘a forest is also like a man,’ and to learn its secrets you have to be in the forest at night,” urges Nazarbayev to return after dark, which – of course – he does.