5 апреля 2024
Paolo Sorbello, photo from Akorda.kz

The Week in Kazakhstan: Non-Traditional

Satellites show an oil spill in the Caspian Sea, the company and the government deny it

The Week in Kazakhstan: Non-Traditional

Floods have continued to damage property and put residents at risk in the western and northern regions of the country. On April 4, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev held a meeting of a government task force in the West Kazakhstan region and said the affected residents will receive compensation and the government will help rebuild the affected homes. Around 600 houses were flooded in the past two weeks, according to official data published on April 5.

A proposed amendment to the law would make it illegal for media outlets to cover the so-called “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation”. The proposal was added to the parliamentary discussion around a new law on mass media on April 5. Zhanarbek Ashimzhanov, one of the deputies responsible for the proposal, said it would only concern biased information on same-sex relationships. After Russia set the examples, other countries, most recently Belarus, are adopting so-called “anti-LGBT+ propaganda” laws.

Satellite imagery from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1A showed on March 30 a possible oil spill in the Caspian Sea, near the Kashagan offshore oil field. The environmental NGO Globus said on April 2 that the images indicated an oil spill, while NCOC, the international consortium operating the Kashagan field, as well as the ministry of ecology, said there was no visible spill at the site.

On April 4, Kazakhstan’s government launched epetitions.kz, a new website for the creation of individual petitions that can be co-signed electronically by other citizens. In the first two days after launching, the website, only accessible from Kazakhstan, has not received any petitions.

A report by FLEX, a British charity working to end labor exploitation, showed that the UK’s Seasonal Worker Scheme has potentially put incoming thousands of workers at risk. The report, published on April 2, featured a number of cases of people from Central Asia, and especially Kazakhstan. High migration costs, job insecurity, and lack of guaranteed income create a risk of debt bondage for workers, according to the authors.

FlyArystan, a low cost airline, obtained a separate certificate to operate flights on April 2. The company remains fully owned by the flagship carrier Air Astana, but will now be able to obtain its own IATA code and achieve more operational independence.

Alibek Kuantyrov, the former minister of economy, took the top job at KAZENERGY, the oil and gas business association and lobby group on April 1. Kuantyrov has worked in government structures for more than a decade.

Kanat Bozumbayev, a former minister of energy and governor of the Almaty region, was named deputy prime minister on March 31. Bozumbayev had left the government in mid-2022 for health reasons only to return as a presidential advisor in September last year.

At a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on April 3, Tokayev urged to implement new measures against terrorism, separatism, and extremism. According to Tokayev, “these threats now not only remain relevant, but are also being transformed, acquiring a new urgency.” Founded in 2001, the SCO comprises China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan, and Iran.

Kazakhstan will not hold a parade for the Victory Day holidays of May 7-9, the ministry of defense said on April 1. The government held military parades until 2019, when it stopped citing the high cost for the national budget.