An influential Russian media figure best known for his calls to burn and bury the heart of gay people killed in accidents has visited Kyrgyzstan with calls for the two countries to sync their approach to spreading information.
Dmitry Kiselyov, head of the Rossiya Segodnya state media holding, has in his position as a prominent television personality cast himself as a bulwark for conservative values against the would-be pernicious influence of the degenerate West.
That and other subjects were on the agenda at a September 22 discussion in Bishkek with the uninspired title: “Informational cooperation between Russia and Kyrgyzstan in the framework of Eurasian integration.”
Reprising a favorite theme, Kiselyov explained how a Eurasian media system might distinguish itself from the West.
“The difference between journalism in the post-Soviet space and the West is that we produce, we don’t reproduce,” he said, nebulously and without elaboration.
Kiselyov dismissed the propagandist label that accompanies his name in most Western news reports.
“I am a journalist, I cover [events] and draw conclusions,” he said.
All Kiselyov’s major talking points at the discussion were Kremlin favorites: the single-sex marriages and double standards of the West, the sins of the Ukrainian government and Russia’s brave struggle for a multipolar world.
The talk was also a promotional push for the five-member Eurasian Economic Union, which Kyrgyzstan joined last month.
After highlighting the perils awaiting nations — such as Ukraine — that “follow the paths of others”, Kiselyov, sanctioned by the West following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine, debated Kyrgyzstan’s own “choice”:
The downward trajectory of Kazakhstan’s national currency since last month has caused economic pain all around, but the free-float engineered by the country’s financial authorities was intended to benefit at least one group: exporters.
Not so, says Moody’s Investors Service.
“Any positive revenue effects for exporters from depreciation will be offset by the revaluation of debt and higher expenses, owing to exporters’ significant share of expenses pegged to foreign currency and cost inflation,” Moody’s vice president Denis Perevezentsev said in a briefing note on September 21.
Importers will take the biggest hit from the devaluation of the tenge, which has lost 50 percent of its value since mid-August, Perevezentsev said.
“Import-oriented businesses, such as food and non-food wholesalers and retailers, will suffer the most and we expect that these companies will find it difficult to quickly pass price increases on to their customers without incurring a possible reduction in demand,” he said.
This echoes what retailers are saying on the ground in Kazakhstan, where they are fretting over the rocketing costs of the goods they import, which they doubt they can pass on to customers.
A rise in inflation as a result of a weaker tenge will also end up “eroding the upside for companies that stand to benefit from a reduction in their cost bases while lower real incomes and higher prices for imported goods will result in reduced demand,” Moody’s said.
There is going to be a lot of broken hearts in Kazakhstan as the starlet of the volleyball scene, Sabina Altynbekova, is set to fly the nest and ply her trade in Japan, Kazinform reports.
In all the media clamor surrounding Sabina Altynbekova, it is sometimes difficult to remember that is was volleyball that first thrust her into the spotlight. Now the 18-year-old poster girl of Kazakhstani sport is to play for GSS Sunbeams of the V.Challenge Ligue, the second tier of pro volleyball in Japan.
Altynbekova rose to prominence last year while representing Kazakhstan at the Asian Under-19 Championships in Taiwan. Local media went crazy for her looks, likening her to a character from anime, the Japanese take on animation that is hugely popular across Southeast Asia.
The media interest sparked a social networking frenzy across the region. YouTube videos of Altynbekova went viral and she inspired numerous Facebook groups. Her Instagram account boasts nearly 500,000 followers.
Such is her fame in Kazakhstan, and Asia in general, that she was wheeled out as part of Almaty’s bid to win the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at the end of July. But her good looks were not enough to sway the delegates as Almaty narrowly lost out to Beijing in the race.
On September 16, Lord Desai stood up in the British House of Lords and proposed what he acknowledged to be a “utopian” solution to a burgeoning crisis that has challenged EU cohesion: Brussels should work via the United Nations to develop and fund a plan to resettle refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern states in Central Asia.
“There are sparsely populated countries in Central Asia – Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Mongolia and so on. There, [in Central Asia] population density is one-hundredth of the population density in Europe,” Lord Desai said. “I would like the United Nations to arrange a transfer of as many migrants and refugees as possible, with the cooperation of those countries, to settle in those countries.”
Lord Desai cited supposed cultural similarities as a reason why Central Asian states might be receptive to accepting refugees from the Middle East. “These are Muslim countries,” he said, referring to Central Asian states. “They are co-religionists.”
Lord Desai’s proposal betrays a bewildering lack of knowledge about the countries to which he would dispatch those hoping to escape either the tyranny of Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime or radical Islamic terror. Some Central Asian states, particularly Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, are every bit as repressive as Syria. Turkmen leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, for example, is focused on locking his country down, not opening it up to newcomers.
When an irate mother posted shocking pictures of a dilapidated children’s hospital in Almaty on her Facebook page, she no doubt hoped the authorities would act — but she probably did not expect such a fast result.
The pictures posted by Ainura Seitakyn showing grimy toilet facilities and a dismal-looking ward with peeling paintwork and cracked tiles caused a social media outcry. The furore got Almaty’s new mayor, Baurzhan Baybek, out from behind his desk to take a non-virtual look at conditions at the Almaty Children’s City Clinical Infection Hospital.
Hospital staff spruced the place up with a lick of paint before he arrived — but Baybek was not fooled. After the grim-faced mayor visited the hospital on September 17, the head of the chief doctor and two senior healthcare staff rolled, Almatynews.kz website reported.
“You’re sitting in here, it’s alright for you. So you don’t care what it’s like over there for others,” said an angry Baybek, presumably referring to the somewhat more luxurious office of the chief doctor, which was also pictured in Seitakyn’s photos. “Would you place your children here in these conditions?”
Baybek’s hands-on approach won plaudits from a public unaccustomed to top officials delving into the nitty-gritty of their problems and reacting so fast to solve them.
His actions suggest that the 42-year-old mayor, an up-and-coming politician who only came to office a month ago, has a keener sense of the public mood than his older-generation predecessor, Akhmetzhan Yesimov.
Prosecutors in Tajikistan have accused the leader of the Islamic Renaissance Party of instigating the recent unrest that culminated in dozens of deaths between government troops and loyalists of a former deputy defense minister accused of mounting a rebellion.
It is a dismal epilogue to the political career of Mukhiddin Kabiri, who pursued a liberal and accommodating line in relations with the government, drawing the criticism of those who believed he should have taken more hardline positions.
The Prosecutor General’s office said on September 17 that Kabiri headed 20 small-scale criminal groups and directly supervised their activities. Former defense minister and major-general Abduhalim Nazarzoda, a former member of the armed United Tajik Opposition, was taking his instructions directly from Kabiri, prosecutors said.
“The decision about the armed attack was taken in August 2015 and so for this purpose a large amount of money was funneled through so-called charitable organizations based in a number of countries,” prosecutors said in a statement.
The criminal gang being described by the government faces criminal charges including theft of weapons, ammunition and explosives, murder, hostage-taking, terrorism, threatening law enforcement officers and military personnel, and abuse of official positions.
No Western governments have to date issued any comment on the events unfolding in Tajikistan.
The U.S. State Department released only messages for American citizens warning them to take precautionary measures in the days following September 4. That appeared to serve as tacit confirmation of the official narrative, which has been supported by little actual evidence.
A freeze has been placed on all property belonging to Kabiri and the alleged leaders of the September 4 unrest.
Nordic telecoms giant TeliaSonera is pulling out of the Eurasian region in the wake of a three year-long scandal over its business dealings in Uzbekistan that saw it accused of funneling illicit payments to associates of Gulnara Karimova, the disgraced daughter of President Islam Karimov.
The company will gradually wind down its operations in its Eurasia section, which includes the six former Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Tajikistan, as well as Nepal, and ultimately cease them altogether, it said in a statement on September 17.
The Swedish-Finnish company said it would focus instead on its telecoms business in Europe “within the strategy of creating the new TeliaSonera.”
“It is our belief that it is possible to do business in Eurasia which are [sic] both profitable and sustainable — but it is important to enter markets in a correct way,” it said.
When TeliaSonera entered Uzbekistan’s lucrative telecoms market, it allegedly used Karimova — at the time a major business player with telecommunications interests, but now under house arrest in Tashkent on corruption charges — as an intermediary.
TeliaSonera’s problems began three years ago, when a Swedish television station aired a report claiming the telecoms giant had made dubious payments to a shell company run by Karimova associate Gayane Avakyan in order to gain access to Uzbekistan’s market. That report sparked a major corruption investigation in Sweden that is ongoing to this day. The resignation of former chief executive Lars Nyberg and the dismissal of several senior company executives ensued the following year.
Foreign ministers, defense ministers and heads of security councils of CSTO member nations pose for a photograph ahead of a summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on September 15, 2015. (Photo: EurasiaNet.org)
As expected, anxieties about the claimed threat posed to Central Asia by the Islamic State group and other extremist outfits dominated talk at the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit in Dushanbe on September 15.
Host president Emomali Rahmon set the tone with his remarks.
“Tajikistan has drawn the attention of colleagues to the current situation in the region as a whole and in Afghanistan in particular,” he said. “The specter of emergencies and security threats in the region is not diminishing, and could even grow.”
It was Russian leader Vladimir Putin that made the point about Islamic State most forcefully.
“The risk of terrorist and extremist organizations making incursions into countries neighboring Afghanistan has increased. Moreover, this threat is made worse by the fact that along with the organizations known to be active in Afghanistan, the so-called Islamic State too has increased its influence,” he said during a heads of states meeting at the summit.
Out of the three former Soviet Central Asian states that border Afghanistan, only Tajikistan is a CSTO member. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have spurned the Moscow-led alliance.
Ahead of the summit, Russian newspaper Kommersant cited an unnamed CSTO official as saying the fight against the Islamic State has led member states to consider proposals on alliance contingents being deployed outside the organization’s borders to take part in an international coalition operating under the auspices of the United Nations.
Putin appeared to be alluding to such a possibility in his remarks.
“Basic common sense and responsibility for global and regional security demands that the global community unites in the face of these threats,” he said.
The government in Tajikistan has banned its only viable opposition, driven its leader into exile and linked it to recent violent unrest, thereby leaving it open to grave criminal charges.
With the bulk of its work done in dismantling the Islamic Renaissance Party, the authorities are now busying themselves expropriating the party’s property and goods.
IRPT told EurasiaNet.org that police entered their offices on September 14 and demanded that the safe be opened. Police proceeded to seize 7,000 somoni ($1,100) and the party’s computer archives, an IRPT representative said.
The offices had been sealed and inaccessible to IRPT staff since August 24, when it ordered shut by a Dushanbe court ruling.
The building belonged to Nematullo Saidov, the son of Said Abdulloh Nuri, who founded the IRPT. Prosecutors have said, however, that the property, which was bought by Saidov from a company called Tijorat, was originally acquired by illegal means.
To compound matters, the prosecutor’s office is measuring the premises in what IRPT representatives believe could be the prelude to fresh accusations of the illegal snatching of a few meters of land.
Authorities are also going after property linked to exiled IRPT leader Mukhiddin Kabiri.
Prosecutors and anticorruption officials over the weekend sealed real estate belonging to Kabiri’s relatives. No explanation has been provided for that action.
Other property targeted included the offices of a construction firm belonging to Kabiri’s brother and a paper napkin and toilet paper factory.
“They confiscated a whole array of production equipment, but because these were fastened down, they were unable to carry them away,” an IRPT representative told EurasiaNet.org.
Tajikistan is suffering from a case of Goldilocks syndrome when it comes to clothing.
Wear clothes that are too Muslim and you risk being dragged off the street by the police.
A group of parents in the capital, Dushanbe, is now facing the music for sending their children to school in excessively expensive garb.
Radio Free Europe’s Tajik service, Ozodi, has reported that the parents of 11 pupils from a school in Dushanbe’s Nosiri Husrav neighborhood have been brought to heel for violating the “Law on the Responsibility of Parents for Educating Children.”
The girls in question stand accused of spurning the uniforms made in a local neighborhood sewing factory, where pupils are expected to buy their school outfits, and instead buying their own in the market, Ozodi reported. Their parents now face a 120 somoni ($19) fine.
The thinking behind the action is said to be the need to protect poorer students from exposure to luxuries they could not themselves possibly afford.
“Those who have money can buy clothes for 300 somoni. Those who don’t (have the money), buy the cheap clothes. Students from poor families, when they see this, feel bad,” Bozorgul Saidova, deputy head of the Nosiri Husrav neighborhood, told Ozodi.
But the brother of one offending student, Murod Rahmonov, told Ozodi that the neighborhood sewing factory did not make a uniform for his sister’s size, which is why they had to look for alternatives at the market.
“My sister’s clothes were sewn badly and were too large for her. So she went to school in another dress. But they made trouble for us and summoned us to the prosecutors. I don’t know what is going to happen now,” Rahmonov said.
The practice of assisting the hard-up from having to indulge in unaffordable expenses has some vintage in Tajikistan.