“The Russian side has finally found the time . . . to satisfy Grigol Vashadze’s application for cancellation of his Russian citizenship," Deputy Foreign Minister Davit Jalagania told a June 28 briefing.
Following the 2008 war with Georgia, Russian parliamentarian Semion Bogdasarov asked Russia's State Duma to deprive Vashadze of his Russian citizenship because of his close association with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who tops the Kremlin’s persona non grata list. The Duma denied the requested, but then Vashadze himself ditched his Russian passport. Vashadze is married to Georgian prima ballerina Nino Ananiashvili, a former Bolshoi Ballet star who is a godmother of Saakashvili’s younger son, Nikoloz.
Kazakhstan, home to some 130 ethnic groups, is making moves to shore up interethnic harmony following the upheavals and pogroms in neighboring Kyrgyzstan.
Posters promoting harmony have begun springing up around Almaty in recent days. At the city’s airport, a billboard proclaims, “Unity is Our Strength,” above a drawing of six inter-linked hands; bus stops are decorated with posters declaring, “A United People – One Heart.”
Kazakhstan prides itself on its record of interethnic accord and is keen to preserve good relations between ethnic groups, especially after the bloody example in southern Kyrgyzstan.
According to preliminary 2009 census figures, ethnic Kazakhs account for 63.1 percent of the country’s 16 million inhabitants. There is a sizeable Russian population (23.7 percent), and significant numbers of Uzbeks (2.8 percent), Ukrainians (2.1 percent) and Uighurs (1.4 percent).
On June 21, President Nursultan Nazarbayev met a group of young people in Astana and once again plugged his message of harmony. “Friendship and stability are golden assets that you should strengthen,” he told representatives of the capital’s gifted youth.
It is a message that must be continually stressed. Just beneath the surface, simmering discontent occasionally appears as Kazakhs become more assertive. In 2007 communal violence between Kazakhs and Chechens erupted in southeastern Kazakhstan, leaving 10 dead.
Eric Stewart, executive director of the U.S.-Turkmenistan-Business Council (US TBC), sent a thank-you note to President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov , featured on the Turkmen government website June 26, for what has been characterized as the first American business delegation to Turkmenistan. Stewart said that the Turkmen leader had shown an "unprecedented personal interest" in the leaders of American companies and this had reinforced their enthusiasm and "faith in the huge potential of bilateral relations".
In his letter, Stewart said the US TBC is planning to host President Berdymukhamedov in the United States in September when he travels to New York to attend the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly. Stewart also said his group would help Turkmenistan in developing Avaza, the Caspian resort zone built around the city of Turkmenbashi. Avaza is the Turkmen leader's pet project, to which many foreign businesses have paid homage as a means of positioning themselves for other prospects in the hydrocarbons-rich nation.
The Members of the U.S. Turkmenistan Business Council include: Belam, Inc., The Boeing Company, Ceka Energy, Case New Holland, Caterpillar Inc., Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, General Electric, Haynes & Boone, LLP, Honeywell, John Deere, KBR (Kellogg Brown Root), Marathon Oil Corporation, and Parker Drilling Company, most of whom were represented on the American business delegation to Ashgabat last week. To join, prospective members have to send an application and pay annual fees of $2,500 to $6,000 receive various levels of access.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev isn't a fan of parliamentary democracy, but rather favors a strong central president. In the case of Kyrgyzstan, he warned, yesterday's apparently successful constitutional referendum establishing a strong parliament and cropping the powers of the executive, the first such system in Central Asia, may lead to the "collapse of the state."
He said democracy in Kyrgyzstan may bring extremists, presumably of the Islamic variety, to power, Reuters reported.
"I don't really understand how a parliamentary republic would look and work in Kyrgyzstan. Will this not help those with extremist views to power? This concerns me," Medvedev told reporters in Toronto, where he was attending the G20 summit.
But Interim President Roza Otunbayeva said voters had chosen to abandon a system that engendered dictators.
The Central Elections Commission announced that nearly 70 percent of voters turned out on Sunday. Early figures suggest emphatic support for the new constitution and keeping Roza Otunabayeva as president for 18 months. Yet voters told EurasiaNet they were simply voting for "peace and stability," seemingly unaware of the new constitution's terms, suggesting the parliamentary system does indeed have a struggle ahead.
For the last few days, the Uzbek government has been forcing back to Kyrgyzstan all refugees officially registered in Uzbekistan after fleeing ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan since June 11, ferghana.ru reports. The number of people affected has been estimated at 100,000. Only those who are too sick or wounded to move are being allowed to stay.
Some women and children who have lost relatives and whose homes are burned were told that a separate camp was being built in Uzbekistan for them. After they were forced to board buses supposedly to go to the new camp, they were taken to the border and told to cross back into Kyrgyzstan. Muhammadkady Karabayev, a leader of ethnic Uzbeks from Jalal-Abad, confirmed the story for ferghana.ru.
Only those were not registered and crossed the border illegally and are staying with relatives now remain in Andijan and Namangan regions, says ferghana.ru. They are forced to hide from Uzbek authorities. Uzbek human rights activists believe that the reason the Uzbek government is forcing the refugees to go back to Kyrgyzstan is that they want them to take part in the
referendum. They estimate that only several thousand refugees now remain in Uzbekistan, mainly in hiding. The Osh administration authorities have reported that more than 317,000 people were displaced by the violence, AKIpress.org reported. Some 600 ethnic Kyrgyz who lived in Uzbek neighborhoods and were forced to flee are now in camp for internally-displaced persons in Osh.
Kyrgyz interim government officials had offered to bring ballot boxes to refugee camps in Uzbekistan. Amnesty International has called for an end to the forced repatriation of refugees in Uzbekistan.
Washington is planning to construct a new military training center in Tajikistan, the strategic country located between flailing Kyrgyzstan and failed Afghanistan, AFP reports, citing US Ambassador Ken Gross.
"The plan ... is almost 10 million dollars to build this national training centre for the Tajik armed forces," Ken Gross told journalists at a briefing in the capital, Dushanbe.
Gross said the facility would be run by the Tajik national guards' service and no US troops would be based there, though he said US military personnel could be brought in to assist in training.
"If requested, we might have people come in to help in training missions," the US envoy said.
Though the deal has yet to be inked, the facility is slated to open next year.
Central Asia-watchers will be eager to see what jealous older brother Russia, which already operates three bases for its 201st Motor Rifle Division in Tajikistan, will want in exchange for America stepping further into its “sphere of interest.”
Russian state media went feral when the US proposed a training center -- for half the price of the proposed Tajik one -- in southern Kyrgyzstan this March.
President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has come out with a second volume of his seminal work Medicinal Plants of Turkmenistan, turkmenistan.ru reports. With this new book, Berdymukhamedov, a trained dentist, doctor of medicine and former health minister, seems to combine a message of paternal concern for public health with promotion of native traditions to evoke a sense of national pride.
The first volume, issued last year, boasted of the achievements of Turkmen medicine over the past 14 years since independence and provided a historical sketch of medicinal plants in Turkmenistan as well as information about their biologically-active components.
The appearance of the glossy two-volume set with pictures and recipes for how to prepare medicines out of plants, leaves, grasses and roots -- published in Turkmen, Russian, and English -- raises the question of whether the Turkmen leader is indulging in yet another self-promotion that verges on the sort of cult of personality for which his predecessor, dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, was infamous. Berdymukhamedov has published books on health, the famous Akhal race horses, and a biography of his grandfather, an injured World War II hero.
Officers exhume unidentified bodies they say are Kyrgyz and were hurriedly buried in an Uzbek cemetery.
Osh investigators have embarked on a macabre task that could stir tensions between Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities ahead tomorrow’s referendum on constitutional reform.
Early on June 26, Kyrgyz troops began exhuming bodies from a graveyard in an Uzbek mahalla (neighborhood) on Kurmanjan Datka Street. Officials say they have been ordered to dig up 10 unidentified corpses that were hurriedly buried during the ethnic violence that left hundreds – if not thousands – dead.
Officials overseeing the operation at the cemetery said the corpses are of ethnic Kyrgyz buried in an Uzbek graveyard.
“These are Kyrgyz corpses,” an Interior Ministry officer from Osh, wearing civilian clothes and a medical mask over his mouth and who declined to give his name, told EurasiaNet.org. “When the war [ethnic fighting] was taking place, they took them and buried them here. The local people did it. … These corpses are unidentified and there are Kyrgyz people looking for their relatives.” He did not provide any substantiation for the allegations.
Nearby, an elderly Uzbek man, visibly upset, was tending the grave of his nephew, Nabijon Korabayev, who was killed in the violence. As armed soldiers shoveled the earth out of a grave behind him, he knelt to pray by his nephew’s burial spot.
Troops kept other local people at a distance and discouraged them from talking to journalists. Contacted by telephone, one resident said there was tension in the area; troops have been conducting house-to-house sweeps and summoning some members of the community for questioning at the prosecutor’s office.
Interior Ministry forces from Bishkek guarding the graveyard during the exhumation said they doubted any reconciliation was possible between Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities in the wake of the bloodshed.
“There won’t be any [reconciliation]. There are a lot of Kyrgyz casualties and they have relatives,” said one officer speaking on condition of anonymity.
Is the "international community" blaming Azerbaijan for the recent violence in Karabakh that killed several soldiers on each side? So claims Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian. Really? Well, not publicly, of course; the official statements are impartial. But Nalbandian says that that's what they are saying to the Armenians, according to RFE/RL:
“In contacts with us, those making such statements, especially after the latest incident, are telling us, ‘You can clearly see to whom our statements are addressed,’” he told a joint news conference with Austria’s visiting Foreign Minister Michael Spindeleger.
“Because clearly it’s not Armenia that makes bellicose statements, calls for war,” said Nalbandian. “It’s not Armenia that organized that provocation on the border and inside the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s territory. It’s not Armenia that rejected a proposal to reinforce the ceasefire regime which was made by the OSCE Minsk Group.”
Unfortunately I don't see any transcript of the press conference, and none of the press accounts report on whether Spindelegger commented on this assertion. But it would seem that either Nalbandian is lying, or talking about off-the-record conversations in public. Either one is surely annoying the international community which Nalbandian claims is on his side.
Plov and happiness in Istanbul's Mihman restaurant
Good news for Istanbul's lovers of plov and other Central Asian delights. Mihman, an enticing restaurant run by an Uzbek from Kashgar, has recently opened its doors. Istanbul Eats checked it out and came back very satisfied. Their report is here.