Tag Archives: Zhanaozen

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’s Eurovision Blues

25 May

Kazakhstan is eyeing Azerbaijan jealously across the Caspian Sea as its energy-rich rival prepares to host the Eurovision song contest on 26 May. Kazakhstan’s position between Europe and Asia allows it to pick and choose between competitions in the two continents, for instance it plays its football in European qualifiers but rugby in Asian tournaments.

When it comes to music, however, it chose to chance its luck in Asia, with events such as the Voice of Asia festival, sporadically held in Almaty, rather than Europe’s annual extravaganza of kitschy music. This is a shame for the good viewers of Eurovision who are denied aural treats such as this unusual dombra-based ditty (the two-stringed dombra is Kazakhstan’s national instrument).

In light of the events in Zhanaozen last December this little number – the Ballad of Zhanaozen – would possibly have made a good entry for Kazakhstan. It certainly ticks all the right boxes for a Eurovision entry – catchy and excruciating. Imagine it set to a dombra backing and translated into Kazakh – a surefire Eurovision winner!

Kazakhstan Goes to the Polls

11 Jan

Lord Venal has interrupted his winter break to share his thoughts on Kazakhstan’s upcoming parliamentary elections with Kazaxia.

Kazakhstan prepares for the rush of voters

Kazakhstan’s big day is getting ever closer and I have decided to cut short my winter break in the Maldives and share my thoughts on the latest developments in the land of Abay. It’s been quiet in the Maldives this year anyway as the boisterous Kazakh contingent was conspicuous by its absence after allforeign travel for officials was banned in the light of the troubles in Zhanaozen.

I have been keeping a close eye on events in Kazakhstan. After the unrest in the west some observers suggested postponing the elections and it was even mooted to cancel the vote in Zhanaozen, which is still under lockdown, but the Leader wisely pooh-poohed this idea. It is important at this troubling time that the people get out to the polling booths and put their support behind Nur Otan and the other party that will be in parliament to maintain peace and stability in the country. The banning of troublemaker opposition candidates such as Bolat Abilov and Gulzhan Yergaliyeva can only be for the good of the country as a whole.

I found a copy of Jonathan Aitken‘s latest work Kazakhstan and Twenty Years of Independence: Surprises and Stereotypes After 20 Years of Independence in my Christmas stocking and have been dipping into it with relish. Recent events in Kazakhstan suggest that maybe Jeffrey Archer, that other disgraced former Tory MP who has done time in prison, would have been a better choice to pen something about the country with his prolific fiction writing skills. I hope Akorda was happy with the present I sent – a copy of Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, which has some interesting ideas for contemplation.

2012 will be an exciting year for Anglo-Kazakh co-operation, especially with Tony Blair advising Astana. Next time I speak in the house I will highlight some business opportunities I have uncovered for British firms. With at least 16 people killed and scores wounded in Zhanaozen on 16 December there would appear to be a gap in the market for some non-lethal riot control materials such as water cannon, rubber bullets and tear gas. Britain’s long experience in Northern Ireland has made it a world leader in the production of riot control gear and this golden opportunity to assist Kazakhstan should not be missed.