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15 марта 2024
Paolo Sorbello, photo by Daniyar Mussirov.

The Week in Kazakhstan: Revise and Resubmit

Tokayev wants a new coat of arms and more oil exports via Azerbaijan

The Week in Kazakhstan: Revise and Resubmit

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev spoke on March 15 at the third meeting of the National Kurultai, a consultative body he created in 2022. Using it as a policy-making platform, Tokayev instructed the parliament and the government to carry out a number of tasks, among which a public call to change the country’s coat of arms, deemed “too difficult and eclectic, as well as loaded with Soviet imagery.”

During his visit to Azerbaijan on March 11, Tokayev said Kazakhstan would increase oil exports through Baku. Kazakhstan exported around one million tons of oil via tankers from Aktau to the port of Baku, which was then shipped via a pipeline connected to the port of Ceyhan in southern Turkey. The plan is to increase supplies to 1.5 million tons in 2024. The new figure would represent just 2% of Kazakhstan’s total oil exports.

Kazakhstan’s exports to Russia have increased by 12% in 2023, compared to the year before, according to official statistics compiled on March 12. Russian investment into Kazakhstan also increased by 40% to $1.7 billion compared to 2022. A slowdown in imports from Russia led bilateral trade to shrink in total by 0.5%. Reports and analyses showed that the increased exports from Kazakhstan to Russia in the past two years could be workarounds to bypass sanctions.

Zhomart Aliyev, the vice-minister of ecology, said on March 12 that there was “no release of methane into the atmosphere” after an accident at the Karaturun gas field in the Mangistau region last year. Aliyev contradicts evidence collected by several independent analytical organizations that, through satellite imagery, concluded that the six-months-long fire at Karaturun led to one of the largest methane leaks of 2023.

A high-profile trial against a former minister of economy started in Astana on March 11. The defendant, Kuandyk Bishimbayev, is accused of having violently killed his wife, Saltanat Nukenova, after an argument at a restaurant on November 9 last year. The case sparked a renewed debate on gender-based violence across the country.

Documents seen by Azattyq on March 14 showed that the Karakalpak authorities had ordered the arrest of activist Akylbek Muratov in November last year, after he gave a speech at an OSCE human rights conference. Muratov, along with other Karakalpak activists, has been a victim of pressure in Kazakhstan. He was detained in mid-February at the request of Uzbekistan’s authorities, who accused him of “calling for mass riots” and “distributing material that threatens public safety” in relation to public protests in July 2022.

In Kyrgyzstan, lawmakers passed on March 14 a so-called “foreign agent” law, poised to increase scrutiny on organizations and individuals receiving donations from abroad. The law is strikingly similar to a bill passed in Russia to exert control over foreign-funded NGOs. Human rights organizations had harshly criticized the bill for months before it was finally passed.