8 декабря 2023
Paolo Sorbello, photo from Qarmet

The Week in Kazakhstan: Say Goodbye

A new investor takes over a massive factory in Temirtau, Kulibayev quits Kazenergy.

The Week in Kazakhstan: Say Goodbye

A court in Almaty sentenced on December 8 a number of officers accused of torture during Qandy Qantar (Kazakh for “Bloody January”). Out of the 11 employees of the National Security Committee, seven were handed prison sentences from 3-5 years. They were found guilty of violent conduct and torture against 54 detainees. According to a lawyer on the victims’ side, the main organizer was acquitted and the accused showed no remorse.

The factory, mines, and assets of ArcelorMittal Temirtau will be sold to Andrei Lavrentyev, a businessman known in car manufacturing, Kanat Sharlapayev, the minister of industry, said on December 8. Sharlapayev also said the government was instrumental in negotiating down the overall price from an initial request of $3.5 billion to $286 million. The government took ownership of the assets via the state-owned Qazaqstan Investment Corporation and then sold it at the same price to Lavrentyev’s new company Qazaqstan Steel Group. After a number of industrial accidents, Kazakhstan’s government had invited ArcelorMittal Temirtau to sell off its assets.

On December 6, Yermurat Bapi, a member of parliament, said the new commission in charge of finding and returning illegally-withdrawn assets should work more transparently. The commission, under the General Prosecutor’s Office, has yet to fully disclose the origin of the assets it has recovered and the government has yet to say how these funds will be reallocated.

Magzum Mirzagaliyev, the CEO of state-owned Kazmunaigas, was selected as the new head of Kazenergy, the oil and gas industry’s main business association, on December 7. Mirzagaliyev notably takes over from Timur Kulibayev, one of Kazakhstan’s wealthiest businessmen and the son-in-law of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Kulibayev had served as the association’s president since it was founded 18 years ago.

Police in Astana detained two activists of the Alga, Kazakhstan! movement on December 7. The reason for their detention is unclear. They had held a press conference the day before in support for their leader, Marat Zhylanbayev, who was sentenced to seven years in prison last week for having participated in and financed a banned organization. Human rights groups have denounced the charges as fabricated.

The Almaty city administration rejected on December 4 a request from feminist activists to hold a rally “against violence”. Zhanar Sekerbayeva, a co-founder of the feminist organization Feminita, said the city administration refused because the requested area would undergo renovation work precisely on the proposed date of the event. Earlier in November, after a request by another, more government-friendly organization, the city administration had offered the option to hold their rally on a different date.

Kazakhstan may soon decide to unify its two time zones, according to a draft resolution published on December 6 for public discussion. Between 1989 and 2000, Kazakhstan was split into three time zones. In 2005, the government abolished daylight savings time. Now, the resolution aims to reform the time zone into one that is “as close as possible to solar (natural) time”.