Local authorities and NGOs staged a rally in Osh on May 27 to promote tolerance in southern Kyrgyzstan, recently the scene of ethnic violence. The region is home to a large ethnic Uzbek minority. Several hundred took part in the peaceful procession.
“Ordinary people -- Kyrgyz and Uzbeks -- don’t need and don’t want any war or clashes,” one demonstrator said. “It is the politicians who manipulate us, the ordinary people,” said another.
The Dostuk Jurushu (Procession of Friendship) lasted for about two hours. Most participants were ethnic Kyrgyz.
Bearing placards reading, “Our aim is friendship and unity,” and “Love for the motherland comes from your heart,” young participants shouted “Birimdik,” “Yntymak” and “Tynchtyk” (Unity, Friendship and Peace). Activists in Batken held a similar rally.
Some participants sacrificed animals and prayed for peace.
Attention, aspiring Central Asian defense contractors: the Pentagon has issued a new tender:
The Defense Energy Support Center (DESC) has a requirement for Russian Grade Jet Fuel
(TS-1) (NSN: 9130-01-491-2201) to be delivered, FOB Destination, to the Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan. It is anticipated that the resultant contract will be a Fixed Price Requirements contract with Economic Price Adjustment. The estimated award quantity is 360,000,000 gallons of TS-1 to be delivered over a two-year base ordering period and one (1) one-year option. The solicitation is anticipated to be released on June 9, 2010. One or more of the items under this acquisition is subject to the World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement and Free Trade Agreements. All responsible sources may submit a proposal, which shall be considered by the agency.
Missing from the solicitation: "Ideal applicants will lack potentially embarrassing ties to current president. Bids under $1.4 billion preferred."
In times of financial crisis, scientists are often the first to face government cutbacks. But in Kyrgyzstan's Tien Shan Mountains, one of the world’s most active seismic zones, such negligence could have devastating consequences, Kanat Abdrakhmatov, director of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Seismology, has told 24.kg.
Of the country’s 24 seismology stations, 15 have closed this year due to a lack of funding.
In addition, the remaining nine analogue stations,
are standing idle due to lack of photo paper for printing the data of seismic devices on. The state has not allocated funds for the Institute of Seismology under the [National Academy of Sciences] for purchase of this very photo paper since the beginning of 2010. The price of the issue is 920 thousand soms [about $20,000].
The article suggests that poor funding contributed to the lack of preparedness for an earthquake in October 2008 that left at least 74 dead.
If you need convincing that Kyrgyzstan lies in an active earthquake zone, check out this “seismic hazard map” of Asia by the US Geological Survey. That big brown blob in the middle, signifying lots of quakes, is Kyrgyzstan.
One commonly held misbelief is that the WTO and a customs union are mutually exclusive - actually there are several customs unions that function within the WTO (such as the EU). However, WTO rules do not clearly provide for customs unions between WTO members and non-members.
Kyrgyzstan's dilemma is simple. When the country agreed to join the WTO in 1998, it adopted a relatively open trade regime. This is common among small, import-reliant countries. Kyrgyzstan committed to an average tariff on imports of 5.1 percent.
In contrast, the Customs Union's tariff on imports will be significantly higher -- it is currently over 10.5 percent. For Kyrgyzstan to adopt the CU's tariff regime, Bishkek would effectively have to double the rates on imports from other WTO members.
(Bishkek is in a tough spot: Moscow recently slapped a 100 percent tariff increase on CU petroleum products exported to Kyrgyzstan. Petrol prices have risen sharply in recent weeks and some experts predict a pump price increase of up to 30 percent will trigger comparable inflation.)
The report only sources an unidentified Russian official.
Bakiyev is wanted back home for corruption and the killings of at least 86 protestors during the April 7 uprising that forced him from power. He has been hiding out as a guest of Belorussian strongman Alexander Lukashenko since mid-April. Kyrgyz officials sent an extradition request to Minsk on May 11.
Though it is unlikely the former Kyrgyz dictator is being forced out of Belarus (where he is a convenient toy in the Lukashenko-Putin love fest), moving about Kyrgyz-ally Turkey is bold. No doubt a few phones in Ankara are ringing.
It’s been a bad week for Kyrgyzstan’s anti-corruption pioneers.
Last Wednesday, recordings of senior interim leaders allegedly plotting corrupt deals surfaced on YouTube. Now, a voice similar to that of Azimbek Beknazarov, first deputy for judicial affairs, has appeared in a third tape, in which the Beknazarov sound-alike discusses prosecuting officials who don’t confirm his appointments.
The voice of Beknazarov appeared in both of the earlier tapes, which we discussed here and which his counterparts confirmed were real conversations, just taken out of context. Either something fishy is happening or Beknazarov has a nosy collection of enemies.
Former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted on April 7 largely over corrupt dealings in his family; same with Askar Akayev. It seems unlikely many Kyrgyz will sit quietly while the interim government repeats their mistakes. It also appears someone is out to paint a very negative picture of this government.
The question of whether Russia will try to draw more of Central Asia into the recently christened Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus (CU) was put to rest on May 21. At a meeting of the heads of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) member states, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made clear his intentions to expand the CU further south:
“As far as I know, there is not a single member of EurAsEC which would not like to join the work of the Customs Union. We will work with you in this direction.”
EurAsEC consists of the CU members, plus Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine are observers. Uzbekistan suspended its membership in 2008.
Tiny Blackpool’s unlikely rise to the Premier League is being described as a fairy tale story, though I presume they don’t mean this one, about the evil and greedy king felled by a swarm of angry mosquitoes.
The club’s website is unfortunately not very revealing about the shareholder structure, but we know about the Blackpool link from a Kyrgyz state television report about Maxim Bakiyev’s appointment in October to the widely reviled Central Agency for Development, Investments and Innovations.
Maxim Bakiyev’s interest in football investment appears to have been aroused by his business partner and joint owner of Latvia-based holding company Maval Aktivi, Valery Belokon.
It is Belokon’s generous investment into Blackpool that is being largely credited with transforming this minnow into a team that will next season play alongside some of the world’s greatest clubs.
And how much of that money came from Maxim Bakiyev, one wonders? Perhaps more importantly, what portion of the reported $130 million windfall from broadcasting rights will Kyrgyzstan’s least favorite son stand to earn?
Other information not readily available is the exact size of Maxim Bakiyev’s share in Blackpool. According to the most recent clues, Belokon’s share amounted to 20 percent, which could put his Kyrgyz partner’s interest as high as 10 percent.
The Pentagon is going to temporarily extend the controversial contract it has with Mina Corp., the mysterious company that the U.S. hired to provide fuel for the air base it operates in Kyrgyzstan, because there isn't enough time in the current contract to find someone new. That's according to none other than Chuck Squires, the defense-attache-turned-fuel-magnate who is the director of operations for Mina. He spoke to the Washington Post:
"We are running against a deadline, and they are aware of it," Squires said in an interview, adding that the Pentagon is "going to have to extend, even if it is just in the short term," because no new contractor could assemble in a short time the complicated infrastructure needed to deliver as much as 12 million gallons of fuel to Manas each month.
The Post also quotes an unnamed administration official saying that the next contract will be "more competitive."
As far as I'm aware, this is the first time Chuck Squires has been heard from in the media since this whole story broke, and the Post fails to ask what seems to be the most obvious question, which is how on earth his company got a $1.4 billion no-bid contract. But with investigations going on both in Kyrgyzstan and in the U.S. Congress, some answers should be coming soon.