16 июня 2023
Paolo Sorbello, photo from the ministry of emergency situations

The Week in Kazakhstan: Homecoming

Cadre reshuffling, arrests, lawsuits, and lack of popular choice

The Week in Kazakhstan: Homecoming

A fire broke out in the north-eastern Abai region on June 8, killing at least 15 and causing the loss of dozens of thousands of hectares of forest area. It took days for emergency workers to extinguish the fire. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev dismissed the minister of emergency situations Yuri Ilyn and the deputy prosecutor general said that Ilyn, together with the minister of ecology and the regional governor, will be among those who will be summoned to court within the framework of a criminal investigation regarding the fire.

Kazakhstan’s ministry of justice said on June 13 that it signed documents to return the assets of Jusan Group to local jurisdiction. This statement comes against the backdrop of a series of disputes against the group, which owns Jusan Bank, a mid-sized lender. The ultimate beneficiary of the bank, according to the latest filings, was a company in Nevada.

The Swedish Supreme Court said it ruled against an appeal by Kazakhstan’s government and Central Bank in a legal dispute against Moldovan investor Anatolie Stati and his companies. The ruling, issued on June 14, was shared in local media on June 16. In 2013, Kazakhstan lost an arbitration case against the Stati side, which has sought compensation in various jurisdictions.

Zhandos Nurmaganbetov, the deputy energy minister, said on June 15 that the government does not plan to hold a referendum on whether to build a nuclear power plant. In 2019, Tokayev had proposed to hold a referendum on whether and where to build the first nuclear power plant in the country.

The national oil and gas company Kazmunaigas said on June 13 that laid-off workers in Zhanaozen, in the western Mangistau region, had signed a contract with another company in the oil services industry. Formerly employed by BerAli Mangistau, dozens of workers picketed outside the ministry of energy building in Astana in April to Astana in protest against work precarity.

Dinara Zakiyeva, a member of parliament, was appointed to the post of Children’s Rights Ombudsperson on June 12. She replaced Aruzhan Sain, who was appointed in 2019. Zakiyeva became known two years ago for having co-signed a bill to protect children from cyberbullying, which would effectively allow the state to block social networks and censor content.

A court in Almaty ordered a two-month detention against Nurzhan Altayev, a politician, for having accepted a bribe while in office. The police had arrested Altayev last week. Altayev served as vice minister of labor until February 2019. According to the prosecution, he was given bribes by Ablai Myrzakhmetov, the former head of the Atameken National Chamber of Entrepreneurs, who was arrested in May.

On June 14, a court in the northern Akmola region ordered a 10-day detention against two activists from Bestobe, a village known for its gold reserves. The activists are accused of having violated the law on peaceful assembly.

Kaisar Sarytai, the former deputy mayor of Taraz, a city in the south of the country, was extradited from Georgia to Kazakhstan on June 15. The General Prosecutor’s Office said he is accused of embezzling more than 50 million tenge ($110,000).

Yermek Kosherbayev, the former ambassador to Russia, was appointed governor of the East Kazakhstan region on June 16. He replaced Daniyal Akhmetov, who was the regional governor for the last nine years.

Berdibek Saparbayev, a long-time government official, died on June 10 at the age of 70. He served twice as minister of labor and vice-premier, and was appointed as regional governor in several regions. He retired last year, leaving his post as governor of the southern Zhambyl region.