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4 августа 2023
Paolo Sorbello, photo from ASI (Italian Space Agency)

The Week in Kazakhstan: Leaks and Viruses

Kazakhstan’s oil exports unaffected by attack in Novorossiysk, Qandy Qantar victims continue to fight for justice

The Week in Kazakhstan: Leaks and Viruses

A massive methane leak from a burning hydrocarbon field in western Kazakhstan could be “the worst” of the year, a Kayrros SAS, a French geoanalytics firm said on August 3. An accident at the Karaturun gas fields, owned by Buzachi Neft, caused a fire that has not been extinguished since June 9. The SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research said this accident has provoked emissions at a rate comparable to the top 10% of the methane plumes it detected this year. The ministry of ecology said on August 4 that the company will be held responsible for extinguishing the fire, but did not comment on the methane leak.

A group of relatives of victims of Qandy Qantar (Kazakh for “Bloody January”, the violent suppression of urban protests in 2022) in Shymkent held a protest outside the city administrative building on August 1. Two of them were arrested the following day for violating the law on peaceful assembly. Across Kazakhstan, according to the official count, 238 people were killed during Qandy Qantar, including more than 10 in Shymkent.

A policeman in the northern city of Semey was sentenced to six years in prison on August 2 for having tortured Yeldos Kaliyev during Qandy Qantar. Kaliyev was found dead by his relatives several days after he was detained, his body covered in bruises and wounds. Two police officers in Semey who failed to report that Kaliyev was tortured, had already been sentenced to three years probation in June.

Unmanned surface vehicles attacked on the night of August 3 the Novorossiysk marine terminal in Russia’s Black Sea shore caused a halt in sea traffic that briefly affected the unloading at the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) terminal. The Russian defense ministry said the attack came from Ukrainian armed forces. Around 80% of Kazakhstan’s oil exports are pumped via the CPC.

In the first six months of 2023, the shipment of Kazakhstan’s oil increased by 8% compared to the same period last year, data from Reuters showed on August 1. Most of Kazakhstan’s oil exports go through Russian territory. In the first half of the year, shipments via alternative routes only increased from 3.4% to 3.7% of the total.

A special commission failed to establish the cause of three cases of HIV infection in the intensive care unit at an Almaty hospital, the ministry of health said on August 1. On the same day, the regional government of the Karaganda region said it could not establish the cause of the mass poisoning of children in the previous days. These two are the latest of a long series of tragic events without an explanation in Kazakhstan.

Businessman Galimzhan Yessenov obtained on July 28 a 14.9% stake in Kcell, one of Kazakhstan’s largest mobile operators. The stake was previously owned by Pioneer Technologies Sarl, a Luxembourg-registered company that bought the stake in 2021 when it was listed in Kazakhstan Stock Exchange (KASE). According to Bloomberg sources, Yessenov is poised to soon take over ownership of Jusan Bank, which was ultimately owned by the foundation established by former President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

In a UK trial, Lord David Evans of Watford and former deputy prime minister Yerbol Orynbayev objected on July 31 to disclosing some of their earnings during litigation involving UK-based Jusan Technologies and three media companies - The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Telegraph Media Group and openDemocracy - it has sued for libel. The media companies linked Nazarbayev to Jusan’s $7.8 billion assets.