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The Blair Rich Project

16 Nov

The jury is still out over the impact that Tony Blair Associates has had on Kazakhstan over the last two years. The former UK prime minister’s consultancy has been advising Astana on a variety of issues since October 2011 in a project dubbed by some observers as “The Blair Rich Project”.

While many Kazakhstan-watchers have pointed to a worsening of the human rights situation and a widespread crackdown in the country since the December 2011 Zhanaozen riots, when 15 protestors were killed, Tony’s crew has witnessed a somewhat different scene.

Using the rose-tinted spectacles supplied by Astana, Tony Blair Associates (TBA) rejected notions of a crackdown, telling the Guardian: “We simply do not agree that the situation in this regard has deteriorated.”

It seems they hadn’t spotted an opposition leader getting jailed for apparently organising the trouble in Zhanaozen, other dissenting political voices being neutered, the silencing of critical media outlets and a further scaling back of the right to free assembly.

The tw0-year contract has just finished and is supposedly up for renewal, but Lord Venal is sceptical it will be prolonged.

“Astana paid $26 million for the services of TBA and, quite frankly, were expecting a bit more Blair for their bucks,” he told Kazaxia.

Tony has only paid flying visits to Kazakhstan, deputising the work to others in his team as he globetrots around sorting out the planet’s problems.

“For that sort of money, Kazakhstan could have bought a million twitter shares (priced initially at $26 a pop), a bar of Kazakhstan chocolate for every person in the country, or around 20% of the Welsh wizard, Gareth Bale,” Lord Venal added.

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Farewell Zhanaozen?

1 Nov

At the height of Stalin’s purges figures that had fallen foul of the authorities were routinely airbrushed from photos in the archives. Now it looks like Kazakhstan is preparing to take its own airbrush and erase the troubled oil-city of Zhanaozen from the map.

RFE/RL reports proposals to rename the city after Beket-Ata, a famed, locally-born sufi mystic from the eighteenth century. The proposals were said to have been made at a meeting of Mangystau Region’s Council of Elders on 27 October.

The move comes hot on the heels of the show trials that saw Kazakh opposition leader Vladimir Kozlov get sent down for seven years for fomenting the violence that erupted last December in Zhanaozen that, according to official statistics, left 15 dead.

The Kazakh authorities must be hoping with the removal of the pesky name  from the archives it can finally move on from this black mark on its post-independence story and the ghosts of Zhanaozen can be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Kazakhstan: Dangerous Bohemian Sentenced to 7.5 Years

8 Oct

The people of Kazakhstan can rest easy tonight as the leader of the gang thought to be behind the Zhanaozen violence last December, Vladimir Kozlov, was sentenced to seven and a half years for provoking the unrest and planning to overthrow the state.

During the trial in Aktau, Western Kazakhstan,  Kozlov, the leader of the unregistered Alga! party, was tagged by an ‘expert’ analyst as having a ‘Bohemian personality’.  This was most likely why he decided to form a gang with himself and tried to overthrow the state.

Astana will surely be in a ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ as its court found Kozlov guilty of the charges laid against him in Kazakhstan’s first show trial of the post-Soviet era.

The whereabouts of Kozlov’s supposed ‘puppet master’ – Mukhtar Ablyazov, remain unknown since he fled Britain in March 2012 after being sent down himself.