Tag Archives: Astana

Kazakhstan Issues New Guidelines to Journos

3 Jun

Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry has issued a new set of guidelines for reporters asking them to ensure that they can be easily identified as members of the press when covering events in the country.

‘Journalists who cover mass actions must have their IDs, badges and the possible identification of the press badges: armbands, hats, vests with the words “press”, “media” to refer to their status,’ Almas Saudabaev, director of the Interior Ministry’s State Language and Information department told reporters.

The move follows a Keystone Cops-style incident in the capital Astana when more than 50 journalists were detained by the police at a non-existent protest rally on 21 May.

Lord Venal’s sweatshop in Taldykorgan has been working overtime to produce a range of hi-vis vests and masks for discerning journalists that conform to the new recommendations.

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While the vest will clearly help you stand out from the crowd and is fully waterproof, the mask is said to protect from the effects of tear gas and pepper spray. For a limited time only the vest and mask combo are available for a sensational $29.99.

In future, the police will be in their usual uniforms, often supplemented by riot gear, and the plain-clothes officers of the security services can be spotted in dark suits, black leather jackets and sunglasses.

To help the authorities, maybe anyone thinking of protesting about anything should don the following outfit:

 

 

Astana Cycling Team Snatches Victory in Italy

30 May

The cash for the grand Astana sports project may be drying up, but the cycling team is not out yet as it pedalled to victory in the Giro d’Italia for the third time on 29 May.

Team Astana’s Vincente Nibali put in a plucky performance over the last few days, helped in no small part by long-term race leader Steven Kruijswijk’s crash at the start of the descent of the Coll dell’Agnello in stage 19 of the 21-stage race.

Nibali won the Giro for Astana in 2013, adding to Alberto Contador’s victory in 2008, but with the cash for the project drying up, as falls in the oil price have hit Kazakhstan’s coffers, Nibali could be on his way to join a new start-up cycling outfit in Bahrain.

Nibali rides next in the Tour de France in July, but is insistent that he will play second fiddle to Astana team leader Fabio Aru. Nibali is also targeting the Rio Olympics.

If the two-times Giro winner does pack his bags for the Gulf, then the cash-strapped Astana team will perhaps look to signing cycling wunderkind Peter Sagan on a miserly $4.5 million per year contract.

 

Kokpar Scandal Rocks World Nomad Games

12 Sep

The first edition of the World Nomad Games, currently being held in Kyrgyzstan, have been rocked by scandal as Kazakhstan refused to send a team to compete in kokpar, the fast and furious horseback sport akin to polo but played with a headless goat carcass.

Its absence will be felt at these games as last September Kazakhstan became the first ever Asian champions of the sport when it defeated fierce rivals Kyrgyzstan 4-2 in the final held in Kazakhstan’s snazzy capital Astana.

kazaxia took to twitter to determine why Kazakhstan hadn’t sent a team to the games in Kyrgyzstan. One observer, Edil Baisalov, noted that the Kazakhs “insist on a different set of rules” which they claim were “adopted at the Asian championship in Astana last year”.

The other countries disagreed with this version of events, Baisalov added.

Kokpar,  better known as ‘buzkashi’ in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, is not a sport traditionally hidebound by rules.  In the past kokpar games were a free-for-all that could last for hours.

Now, seeking to appeal to a wider audience and the television market, there have been suggestions that the sport be regulated with two 45-minute halves and restrictions on team sizes.

The version played in Afghanistan has been suggested as an international model with rules developed by the Afghan Olympic Federation. These rules suggest that:

For championship Buzkashi in Kabul, teams are limited to ten riders each. Five players take the field during the first 45 minutes of play; the other five compete during the second period. A field master presides over the match and has the authority to prolong the game and grant permission for a change of riders or horses. The halftime break lasts for 15 minutes.

The World Nomad Games, being held in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan, by the shores of Lake Issyk Kul, brings together competitors from countries with a nomadic tradition for a six-day festival of traditional sports. The games culminate on 14 September.

Besides kokpar, the sports include horse races, wrestling on horse back, contact sports based on wrestling, eagle hunting, and the more cerebral ordo, and toguz korgool, a board game related to mankala.  For more information on these sports, check out here.

Kazakhstan: The Axe-Man Cometh

7 Aug

President Nazarbayev returned to Kazakhstan from his July holidays as a man on a mission to trim back the excesses of his government’s bloated bureaucracy.

It must have been an uncomfortable experience for the government bigwigs assembled in Akorda, the president’s Astana HQ, as the axe fell repeatedly with ministries and agencies being culled and merged left, right and centre. After the dust had settled, Kazakhstan was left with 12 ministries from its former tally of 17.

Kazaxia has had a look at some of the main changes: the biggest shock was the merging of the Family Affairs and Nepotism ministries, bringing the bodies for providing jobs for clan and family members and other assorted hangers-on under one umbrella. This is set to cause some friction in the months ahead as former ministers scrabble to place their kith and kin in cushy numbers. It should be a bloody battle with the trough having been significantly downsized.

The Ministry of Privatisations was merged with the Nationalisation Ministry in a move that will effectively paralyse attempts by Astana to either buy or sell its ailing industrial base. The Corruption Agency was brought under the auspices of the Ministry for Investment to streamline procedures for investors.

The energy sector also saw major changes. The Agency for Renewable Energy was subsumed by the Ministry for Fossil Fuels to create a powerful lobby group for the extractive industries. Eco fanatics will be further enraged by the decision to place the Environmental Protection Agency under the wing of the Ministry for Urban Development. This should pave the way for controversial projects such as the Kok-Zhailau ski resort to proceed unhindered.

Russia to Quit Eurasian Economic Union?

30 May

After Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan inked the Eurasian Economic Union treaty in Astana yesterday, observers have started to question whether the treaty is valid by raising concerns over territorial issues.

Lord Venal told kazaxia that Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in March, widely condemned by the international community, could result in complications for the fledgling economic union.

And then there were two?

“Kazakhstan has insisted that Armenia will be allowed to join this exclusive club only if it does so within its internationally-recognised borders thus excluding the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Lord Venal told kazaxia.

“This decision could have serious implications for Russia as it has illegally-occupied sovereign Ukrainian land. This could mean Crimea being excluded from the Union or even Russia having to leave the bloc,” he continued.

This would leave Belarus and Kazakhstan as the leading lights of Eurasian integration. The possible inclusion of Armenia and Kyrgyzstan would be unlikely to make up for the loss of Russia’s economic clout.

Abkhazia, a largely unrecognised breakaway region of Georgia, has also been mooted as a potential member. Doctor Gött, of the Gött Institute of Serious Thinking (GIST) thought it highly improbable that Abkhazia would be able to join the union.

“It’s not even a real country, is it?” he told kazaxia. “The actual details of the [Eurasian Economic Union] treaty have not been made public but I’m sure there’s no provision for including pretend countries”.

Doctor Gött suggested that if Russia were to be kicked out and these other countries (even pretend ones) were allowed in then KABAK (marrow or courgette) could be a suitable acronym for the grouping.

Kazakhstan: Sparks Expected to Fly at Astana Mediafest

23 Apr

This year’s edition of the Eurasian Media Forum, to be held in Astana April 24-25, has attracted an eclectic range of guest speakers including America’s Newt Gingrich, Egypt’s  Mohamed El Baradei, Israel’s Ehud Barak, Russia’s Vladimir Pozner and Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Cemiliev.

With topics to be debated including ‘The Middle East Tinderbox’ , the ‘Ukraine Crisis: What do Ukrainian  People Expect and Fear?’ and ‘Eurasian Integration’, kazaxia is expecting some sparks to fly at this year’s forum.

Mustafa Cemiliev, an outspoken critic of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, was recently barred from visiting Russia for five years. Vladimir Pozner is known as a spokesperson for the Soviet Union during the First Cold War.

The media forum is the brainchild of Dariga Nazarbayeva, eldest daughter of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Nazarbayeva recently hit the headlines for making disparaging remarks about disabled people in Kazakhstan, labelling them as ‘freaks’. The forum brings together a range of figures from across the globe and is now in its eighth incarnation.

Kazakhstan: Project Verny Unmasked

10 Mar

Project Verny, the sinister operation that may see Kazakhstan and other Central Asian states being annexed by the Russian Federation, is gaining momentum after secret meetings in Moscow last week.

Russian nationalist troublemaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky started the Project Verny ball rolling on February 23 when he called for called for the establishment of Russia’s “Central Asian Federal Region,” with “Verny” – the Russian Tsarist-colonial era name of Almaty, as its capital.

Following Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea, a part of the sovereign territory of Ukraine, the initiative has picked up speed with incumbent Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev summoned to the Kremlin on March 5 to discuss the project with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

It is believed that President Nazarbayev will be allowed to stay on as a figurehead president, with Zhirinovsky, who was born and raised in Alma-ata, the Soviet-colonial era name of Almaty, pulling the strings. This role is a reward for Zhirinovsky’s decades-long service as a faithful lackey to the Kremlin.

Karaganda in central Kazakhstan could be used as the transit point for Russia’s bully boys. Local self defence units and whip-toting Cossack thugs can be flown into the city via a recently-initiated Aeroflot flight from Moscow. Karaganda has a sizeable Russian-speaking population and is just three-hours journey for Kazakhstan’s capital Astana.

The catalyst for flying in local self-defence forces could come from a bizarre incident involving a pensioner and a lift in Astana. Olga Matvienko, a 74 year-old from Astana, told kazaxia that she was left befuddled after riding in a Kazakh-speaking lift recently.

The lift’s automated voice read out numbers such as “bir,” “tort” and “besh”, leaving the life-long resident of Kazakhstan, who has no knowledge of the Kazakh language, stranded as she tried to find the third floor.

“This voice kept on saying “tort” [cake in Russian] and I was very confused,” Matvienko told kazaxia. “I implore Vladimir Ilyich to protect my rights as a Russian-speaker in Tselinograd.”

[Editor’s note: the pensioner seems to have muddled up her Vladimirs; she probably means Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] here rather than Vladimir Ilyich [Lenin]. Also, no-one appears to have informed her that Tselinograd – the Soviet-colonial era name – is now known as Astana].

Could this strange case be the casus belli that Vladimir Vladimirovich and Vladimir Wolfovich [Zhirinovsky] have been waiting for to grab  land in what they see as their Central Asian backyard?

Alga Shaky Kangaroos!

1 Oct

Kazakhstan’s Shakhter Karagandy, better known to some UK supporters as the Shaky Kangaroos, is set to make its home debut in the Europa League this Thursday with the visit of Israel’s Maccabi Haifa to the Astana Arena, where Shakhter are playing its home legs. It is the first time a team from Kazakhstan has reached the group stages of Europe’s second tier contest.

Kazaxia is predicting a close run thing with both clubs losing their openers in Group L, with Shakhter losing 2-1 to Greece’s PAOK and Maccabi going down 1-0 at home to Holland’s AZ Alkmaar.

According to Lord Venal, the result will hinge on whether or not Shakhter will be allowed to sacrifice a sheep before the match. It was prevented from doing this before its second leg tie with Scotland’s Glasgow Celtic and subsequently lost 3-0 and failed to qualify for the Champions League.

The match has sparked a lot of interest in Kazakhstan with some fans even prepared to travel overnight by bus from the business hub of Almaty to the capital Astana.

For 20,000 tenge ($130) the bus will take the fans from Almaty’s Central Stadium to the Astana Arena with guaranteed match tickets, before making the 12-hour or so journey back down south. Kazaxia hopes that the trip will be worth it for these die hard fans.

Kazakhstan: Reality vs. Image

18 Jul

Quick now, when’s the last time you read or heard anything about Kazakhstan in the Huffington Post?

I thought so. It was the July 1 story about a Russian rocket crashing in Kazakhstan after its launch (“Russian Rocket Crashes in Kazakhstan After Launch”).

No? Then surely it was the June 30 feature on British PM David Cameron’s trip to Atyrau and Astana to drum up some business for the UK and not discuss human rights too much less it offend his hosts (“David Cameron in Kazakhstan for Trade and Human Rights Talks”).

Not that either? Then it must have been the story about Borat (remember him?) from April 23, 2012 (“Borat Still Boosting Kazakhstan Tourism”).

No matter. The point is that Kazakhstan, a country the size of Western Europe with vast reserves of oil that rose from the ashes of the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 and has been ruled forever by Nursultan Nazarbayev, is rarely featured in the Huffington Post unless it’s a negative story or some free positive PR for the authorities in Astana (“Kazakhstan:Image vs. Reality”).

(with thanks to Al Eisele, Editor-at-Large, The Hill)

Kazakhstan Slams UK Over Human Rights

1 Jul

Lord Venal, who was on the unofficial delegation tagging onto UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to Kazakhstan, reports from an Irish bar in the snazzy capital Astana that Cameron sat stony faced as Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev lectured him over Britain’s appalling  human rights record.

Citing deals with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and concerns over prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, the Kazakh Leader of the Nation allegedly gave Cameron an uncomfortable audience.

Nazarbayev also apparently mocked the UK’s nascent democracy – Cameron was elected on a mere 36.1% of the vote, whereas Kazakhstan’s president polled 95.6%.

When asked about fictional British detective, Sherlock Holmes, the Leader sheepishly admitted to having watched a Soviet-era version of the detective’s adventures in foggy Albion.

Lord Venal was in town to drum up business for Kleptis petroleum. Having seen his lordship  partake of quite a few pints of Guinness, Kazaxia is unable to vouch for the veracity of the above comments.