Books on Kyrgyzstan
A Central Asian country of incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic
traditions, Kyrgyzstan was annexed by Russia in 1864; it achieved
independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Current concerns include:
privatization of state-owned enterprises, expansion of democracy and
political freedoms, inter-ethnic relations, and terrorism.
Update No: 277 - (01/02/04)
Central Asian maverick
Presidential and parliamentary elections loom in Kyrgyzstan in 2005, from which the president, Askar Akayev, is debarred from standing by reason of the constitution. His second term expires then. He has said that he will abide by the constitution. But there are calls for him to stand all the same.
The Kyrgyz leader is unusual in not having been the communist party boss before independence. He has been responsible for attracting interest and credit from the West.
Elizabeth Jones, the feisty US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Asia, was in town recently and stated her belief that there would be free and fair elections in Kyrgyzstan. She also said that the US was particularly interested in the development of a civil society there.
First private printing press opens
She could not have spoken more aptly. The republic is, thanks to the US, achieving a major breakthrough here. As if to prove the point the new departure has already been criticised openly.
When a new US-sponsored printing press began operations recently, it broke a state monopoly over publishing. Civil society advocates had high hopes that the development would spur freedom of expression. Yet, controversy has enveloped the new printing press in the weeks since its opening, creating uncertainty over whether the project can achieve its aims.
The press was established in November by the international organization Freedom House with funding provided by the US State Department's office for Human Rights, Democracy and Labor. The Kyrgyz non-profit organization Media Support Center Foundation was charged with operating the press. Its main aim was to create competition with the state-owned press house, Uchkun. The state-owned press has in recent months refused to print newspapers critical of the government.
The Freedom House press suffered a serious blow in early December, when Victor Zapolskiy, editor of the private weekly newspaper Delo No., announced that he was resigning from the board of directors and that he would shift his business back to Uchkun.
The threat of fundamentalism
The Kyrgyz republic is being targeted by Islamic activists, who have regularly made incursions into the southern province of Osh.
Prior to this year, the so far non-violent Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HUT) focused most of its activity on Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and southern Kyrgyzstan. Of late, however, the group's leafleting activities have spread to cities in southern Kazakstan and northern Kyrgyzstan.
Some local observers maintain that government repression is encouraging radicalization within HUT's ranks. A few officials, such as Kyrgyzstan's ombudsman Tursunbai Bakir uulu, have suggested the best way to contain the HUT threat would be to legalize the organization's activities. That would make it easier for officials to identify the most radical elements and to isolate them, advocates of legalization argue.
Other observers question whether legalization would serve to moderate HUT's outlook. They note that the underground group has never expressed a desire to enter into a dialogue with incumbent authorities. In any event, authorities in Kyrgyzstan and elsewhere in the region show no sign of wanting to ease their tough stance towards HUT.
Kyrgyzstan steps up agricultural ties with Russia
Kyrgyzstan is increasing its cooperation with Russia in matters agricultural, Kyrgyz Agriculture, Water and Processing Industries Minister, Alexander Kostyuk, told Interfax News Agency.
The main areas for working with Russia are in the processing of agricultural products, supplying agricultural equipment and agricultural product exports to Russia's Siberian and Urals regions, Kostyuk said. The October 2003, Kyrgyz-Russian investment forum stepped up bilateral cooperation in the field of agriculture.
In 2004, the arrival on the Kyrgyz market of such Russian companies that engage in equipment deliveries such as Avtoexport and Rostselmash, is expected Kostyuk said. The Kyrgyz Agriculture Ministry is discussing the licensing of agricultural technology with Russia.
The volume of direct investments made in Kyrgyz agriculture over the past two years came to US$45m, 30% of which was Russian investment. In 2003, direct investment in agriculture came to around US$16m, where the level of Russian input represented roughly 30% of the funds, he said.
Kyrgyzstan now has fifty private Russian companies involved in the country's agricultural sector, Kostyuk noted.
Kyrgyzstan announces tender for trustee management of Kyrgyzneftegaz
The Kyrgyz State Property Fund is to hold a tender to appoint a trustee manager for state shares in OAO Kyrgyzneftegaz, Kyrgyz Prime Minister, Nikolai Tanayev, said in late December. Two subsidiaries of Russia's Gazprom are interested in the Kyrgyz oil and gas company, but a winner will be announced on January 23rd, he said.
"The winner will not only be obliged to produce oil, explore for oil and build refineries, but also to invest in regional development in Kyrgyzstan ," Tanayev said.
He said that Kyrgyzneftegaz currently produces about 75,000 tonnes of oil per annum, while annual consumption in the republic amounts to about 500,000 tonnes.
Kyrgyzneftegaz is developing about 12 oil and gas fields with recoverable commercial reserves of 11.4 million tonnes of oil and 4.8 billion cubic metres of gas. Production fell 1.8% year-on-year to 54,000 tonnes in January-September 2003, with gas production down 16.1% to 19.3 million cubic metres.
Russia and Kyrgyzstan sign 5-year contract for electricity deliveries
Kyrgyzstan and Russia have signed a five-year contract for the delivery of 1.5 billion kilowatt-hours per year of electricity to Russia, the press service of Kyrgyz company, Electricheskiye Stantsii (Power Stations), told Interfax News Agency.
The five-year contract to deliver electricity was signed with ZAO Inter RAO UES, a subsidiary of Unified Energy Systems of Russia, according to the press service.
"We are not abandoning our traditional electricity markets of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakstan with this agreement," deputy general director of Electricheskiye Stantsii, Aidar Kaliev, said. Kyrgyz energy companies delivered 715 million kilowatt-hours of electricity to Russia in 2003. The deliveries go through the energy system of Kazakstan and the electricity sent to Russia is generated at the Toktogul hydro power plant, according to Kaliev.
He noted that Kyrgyz electricity deliveries to Russia began in September 2003, and added that the country can export 3-4 billion kilowatt-hours a year. Kyrgyzstan generated 9 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in January-September 2003, and exported 1.1 billion kilowatt-hours to various countries, including Russia, Kazakstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
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