1 марта 2024
Paolo Sorbello, photo from PxHere

The Week in Kazakhstan: Roadblocks and Workarounds

Another “no” to a feminist rally, new research on Kazakhstan’s exports to Russia

The Week in Kazakhstan: Roadblocks and Workarounds

Kazakhstan sent the first batch of a 2,000-ton shipment of diesel fuel to Kyrgyzstan earmarked as “humanitarian aid” on February 29. Heat and power plants in Bishkek have suffered accidents and shutdowns, leaving residents without electricity and heating for days. Since July 2022, Kazakhstan has banned the export of petroleum products to ensure a steady supply to the domestic market.

Students at Nazarbayev University in Astana received an “unofficial warning” against holding a rally for International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8, MISK, the Youth Information Service NGO, told the press on March 1. Students at Nazarbayev University held IWD rallies for the past two years. Feminist activists across the country have lamented that they have been repeatedly denied the possibility to hold marches and rallies for this year’s IWD.

On February 27, the management of West Oil Software, an oilfield service company based in the western Mangistau region, fired at least 50 striking workers. The company had threatened the striking workers with layoffs the previous week. Hundreds of workers have been on strike for more than 80 days, demanding that the company be integrated in the ranks of Kazmunaigas, the national oil and gas company, which offers better salaries and conditions.

A court sentenced former minister of culture Arystanbek Mukhamediuly to 11 years in prison on February 29 for theft and abuse of office, among other charges. On February 23, the prosecutor had asked for a 12-year sentence. The latest sentence did not increase prison time against the former minister, previously set at 11 years after another trial. Last year in June, Mukhamediuly had been sentenced to eight years on similar counts, but subsequent investigations triggered new trials.

On February 23, Karakalpak activist Akylbek Muratov was granted the status of asylum seeker in Kazakhstan for three months. Muratov, who has lived in Kazakhstan for more than a decade, is a citizen of Uzbekistan. He was detained on February 17 and charged for having called for mass disorder in relation to the 2022 popular protests in Karakalpakstan, the autonomous north-western region of Uzbekistan. A court in Almaty later ordered a 40-day administrative arrest for Muratov. Now, his status of asylum seeker prevents any possible request for extradition.

On March 1, police detained Abzal Dostiyarov, a member of the unregistered Democratic Party. While in detention, Dostiyarov was able to livestream part of the exchanges with the police and said he had been beaten while in detention. Dostiyarov was not immediately charged, according to media reports.

A Bloomberg Economics report published on February 29 showed that at least 7% of the goods Kazakhstan exported to Russia in 2023 are among the ones listed in the sanctions packages from the European Union, the US, and the UK. Most of the increase in Kazakhstan’s exports to Russia since the start of the latter’s war of aggression in Ukraine, however, is due to non-sanctioned products, essentially making Kazakhstan a “workarounds for transportation restrictions,” the report says.

The Anti-Corruption Agency said on February 29 that it recovered more than 1 trillion tenge ($2.2 billion) of illegally-withdrawn assets under a program that started in 2022. The Agency only publishes a partial list of the assets it recovered, keeping the process opaque.

Amendments to the legislation will provide additional pay for academic researchers who engage in the scientific community through projects and publications. The law, amended in parliament on February 28, also introduces the concept of “scientific ethics” and an additional pay scale for academic titles, from PhDs to professors.

The majority of Kazakhstan’s regions moved their clocks back by one hour between February 29 and March 1, as the country unified time zones. Until the change, Kazakhstan had two time zones (UTC+5 and UTC+6). Now time in the whole country will be set at UTC+5. Between 1989 and 2000, Kazakhstan was split into three time zones.