Kyrgyzstan’s Health Ministry has denied any new cases of bubonic plague after a 15-year-old boy died of the disease last week.
Citing an unnamed government source, AFP reported on August 27 that three more people who had had contact with the deceased were exhibiting signs of the disease and had been hospitalized.
The Health Ministry denies the three have contracted the disease. "Preliminary results are negative,” Health Ministry spokeswoman Elena Bayalinova told EurasiaNet.org on August 28.
A total of 148 people believed to have had contact with 15-year-old Temirbek Isakunov
shortly before his death on August 22 in northeastern Ak-Suu district have been quarantined and are receiving prophylactic antibiotics, the Health Ministry said in a statement. The ministry says an epidemic is unlikely and authorities are said to be controlling movement in and out of the district.
A boy tries to sell a dead marmot in Tajikistan. Marmots are often hunted for their meat in mountainous parts of Central Asia. But in Kyrgyzstan, health officials suspect a teenager died from bubonic plague after coming into contact with a flea that had lived on a marmot.
Kyrgyzstan’s Health Ministry has confirmed the death of a teenager from bubonic plague, an infectious disease most famously known as the Black Death that killed approximately one-third of Europe’s population in the 14th century.
On August 26 the ministry said an autopsy on 15-year-old Temirbek Isakunov had confirmed the boy had contracted the disease. Isakunov died in Issyk-Kul province on August 22 after being admitted to a hospital with a high fever and swollen lymph nodes in his armpits and on his neck. Doctors suspect Isakunov contracted the disease from a flea living on a marmot that his family had cooked. Marmots are common in Central Asia's mountains and are sometimes hunted for their meat.
Kloop.kg quoted Health Minister Dinara Saginbaeva saying at a press conference this morning that the teenager had been buried and 105 people who could have been in contact with him during his last days are being given antibiotics. The Ministry of Emergency Situations says that more than 700 people in Issyk-Kul province have been examined for symptoms, the 24.kg news agency reports.
Human Rights Watch has called on authorities in Kazakhstan to investigate "swiftly and effectively" an attack on a critical journalist in the western city of Aktobe.
Igor Larra, a correspondent with the Svoboda Slova newspaper, suffered a head injury and bruises on his body when four unidentified men attacked him with a crowbar on August 20, the Almaty-based Adil Soz foundation for the protection of freedom of speech said on August 21.
The journalist linked the attack to a number of critical articles he has written about the governor of Aktobe Region, Arkhimed Mukhambetov, Adil Soz said.
Adil Soz says Larra was also attacked in March 2010 for what it believes was his coverage of an oil workers' strike in the town of Zhanaozen and other problems in Kazakhstan's oil and gas sector.
“A critical journalist who has been attacked before has been hit over the head with a crowbar,” said Mihra Rittmann, Europe and Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “This follows a pattern in Kazakhstan. The authorities need to get to the bottom of what happened to Igor Larra, including whether it was related to his work.”
Dushanbe hosted a conference on water this week, attended by some 900 representatives from over 70 countries and organizations. Despite a heartening appearance by a delegation from Tajikistan’s archrival, Uzbekistan, the conference didn’t appear to do much to help end one of the region’s most pernicious conflicts.
Discussing water-related cooperation in Dushanbe seems like a good idea considering the long-running friction over water in the region. Upstream, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are planning giant hydropower dams to harness the potential of their mountain rivers. Downstream, agriculture-dependent Uzbekistan is vehemently opposed, using economic blockades to prevent Tajikistan proceeding. Uzbek President Islam Karimov has even suggested the projects – Rogun in Tajikistan and Kambara-Ata in Kyrgyzstan – could spark war.
So the biggest surprise is that Uzbekistan sent a delegation at all. Tashkent and Dushanbe hardly speak these days, largely thanks to the Rogun project, which, at a planned 335 meters, would be the tallest in the world.
Aleksei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition figure and a candidate for Moscow mayor, has reached out to the city’s migrant communities, meeting with eight migrant rights activists on August 16, according to the weekly Bolshoy Gorod (“Big City”) Magazine.
News of the meeting so far appears limited to comments by one participant, since the Navalny campaign asked participants not to disclose the contents of the discussion, promising to release a video of the event. (Those comments by Bella Shakhmirza, founder of the Face to Face lecture series on ethnic relations in Russia, give little away. She describes Navalny’s position as “frightening” and “nationalist,” while calling him “charismatic” and characterizing the atmosphere of the meeting as “very good.”)
But given Navalny’s penchant for outright ethnic slurs against people of the Caucasus and Central Asia in the past, the fact that the meeting took place at all appears to be a nod toward the potential influence of Moscow’s migrants – and their sympathizers – in the September 8 vote, which includes regional elections in eight federal entities of Russia and several mayoral races in major cities.
Rakhat’s “Kazakhstan.” Everyone wants a bite of Kazakhstan chocolate.
Foreign firms are lining up to take a bite out of Kazakhstan’s lucrative chocolate market. Beloved local chocolatier Rakhat is tempting a South Korean investor, while Turkey's Ülker has recently expanded its Kazakhstan candy operations.
In July, Seoul-based Lotte Confectionery announced plans to takeover Almaty's Rakhat, which EurasiaNet.org featured in March. The deal will see Lotte buy 76 percent of Rakhat's common shares for an estimated $157 million, valuing the company at $43.5 per share, a premium of around 30 percent on the current share price listed on the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange.
The Koreans are not the only ones moving into the Kazakh market. Ülker, a Turkish packaged food producer that has been active in the country for over 10 years, recently launched a rival to Rakhat's best-selling “Kazakhstan” chocolate bar with its own take on, yep, “Kazakhstan” chocolate.
Rakhat, which has operated in Almaty continuously since 1942, features on its packaging a golden eagle flying under a yellow sun on a blue background, a theme resembling Kazakhstan's national flag. Ülker's packaging echoes Rakhat's and features Bayterek, Astana's iconic tower, on a blue and yellow background.
Bayan Sulu, another local chocolate manufacturer, has also tapped into the growing appetite for patriotic-looking candy with its own “Kazakhstanski” chocolate: Its wrapper features a map of Kazakhstan.
A month and a half after a Russian spacecraft exploded on takeoff in Kazakhstan, the two sides are still bickering over the cleanup.
Kazakhstan’s Tengrinews news agency reported on August 15 that Environmental Protection Minister Nurlan Kapparov had expressed his “dissatisfaction” with the Russian space agency’s efforts to clean up after a Russian Proton-M rocket carrying up to 600 tons of toxic fuel exploded at the Baikonur launch site 17 seconds after takeoff on July 2.
Russia says it needs more time to clean up the poisonous mess.
“Roskosmos’s representative has asked for [an extra] 15 days for the detoxication of the area,” Tengrinews reported, quoting a statement from the Kazakh Environmental Protection Ministry.
The statement added that the Kazakh government is doing its utmost to “identify negative consequences of rockets on the environment and health of residents of Baikonur.” Local residents have complained they are being kept in the dark about the potential environmental and health impacts of the crash.
Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reported on August 15 that the Proton-M rocket carrying three Glonass satellites had contained 500 to 600 tons of heptyl, a highly toxic substance used as fuel to power Russian rockets.
A former lawyer for one of the two students from Kazakhstan implicated in the Boston Marathon bombing has published an impassioned plea for leniency, arguing that the prospect of 25 years in prison for the two teens for exercising “world-class bad judgment under the worst of possible scenarios” would be too harsh a punishment.
Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, both from Kazakhstan, allegedly took and dumped a backpack with emptied fireworks from Dzhokar Tsarnaev’s dorm room after seeing their friend named as a suspect on TV several days after the bombings. On August 13, Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev entered a plea of “not guilty” on charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice in Boston’s Federal District Court.
In a commentary for Slate, Harlan Protass, Tazhayakov’s former lawyer, argues that locking up two 19-year-olds till they’ve reached their 30’s or 40’s is not the best way to prevent future tampering with evidence by others. That may be a bit inside baseball if you don’t live in the United States, since it plays into broader American debates about sentencing and prison reform, as well as the power of federal prosecutors.
Two students from Kazakhstan have been charged with obstructing the investigation into the Boston marathon bombing, which left three dead and over 100 injured in April.
Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both 19-year-old students from Kazakhstan, were indicted by a federal grand jury on August 8, USA Today reports.
The two students, who were associates of the two brothers suspected of carrying out the fatal April 15 attack, face up to 25 years in jail on charges of obstructing justice and conspiring to obstruct justice (overtaking conspiracy charges brought against them in May). They will be formally charged in a federal court in Boston on August 13, the report quoted a spokeswoman for the US attorney as saying.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov are alleged to have disposed of evidence by throwing away the backpack of the surviving suspected bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, after hearing about the terrorist attack in the media and finding their friend’s backpack contained suspicious objects.
Kadyrbayev's attorney, Robert Stahl, expressed disappointment at the charges and said his client had been “shocked and horrified to learn that someone he knew was involved in the terrible Marathon bombing.”
“Even though he was literally stunned and in fear, and even though he is from a country where the police are routinely distrusted, from the moment the authorities approached him he has fully cooperated,” the attorney said in a statement quoted by USA Today.
Thousands of men from Central Asia, the South Caucasus, and Russia’s Muslim republics gathered in central Moscow on August 8 to mark the closing of Ramadan.
The Eid al-Fitr prayers, which celebrate the end of the month-long fast, gave Moscow’s estimated million-plus population of Muslims, many of them migrant laborers, a chance to put aside, for a few minutes, growing concerns about the nationalist rhetoric, police roundups, and migrant detention centers that have become a feature of the city’s ongoing mayoral campaign and Russian politics in general.
Some knelt on carpets, some on newspapers. Radio Ekho Moskvy said more than 3,000 police and tens of thousands of worshipers gathered outside Moscow’s four mosques for the 8:00 a.m. prayer. Others estimated well over 100,000 faithful.
Outside the Sobornaya Mechet, Russia’s Chief Mufti, Ravil Gainutdin, relayed messages of peace from President Vladimir Putin, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, and Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, among others. Blessings in several languages including Uzbek and Tajik were broadcast to the men kneeling in the streets before the main prayer.
A circling police helicopter often drowned out the announcements. For several construction workers from Tajikistan, however, that didn’t matter. As the mufti spoke and they waited for the moment to pray in silence, they were absorbed with a mobile phone video of a tracksuited woman in black leather boots dancing on top of a car.