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Kazakhstan: An ultra-modern logistics center to be built in Nur-Sultan

  • Written by TCA

NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — Kazakh Invest national investment promotion company and Wholesale Retail Trade Enterprise JSC have signed a memorandum of cooperation to support project implementation to build an automated logistics center meeting the latest international standards in Kazakhstan’s capital, Nur-Sultan, Kazakh Invest said.

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Weekly Digest of Central Asia

  • Written by TCA

BISHKEK (TCA) — The Publisher’s note: Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Central Asia was the scene of intense geopolitical struggle and the Great Game between the British and Russian Empires, and later between the Soviet Union and the West, over Afghanistan and neighboring territories. Into the 21st century, Central Asia has become the area of a renewed geopolitical interest, dubbed the New Great Game, largely based on the region’s hydrocarbon and mineral wealth. On top of that, the region now is perhaps the most important node in the implementation of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative through which Beijing aims to get direct access to Western markets. Every week thousands of news appears in the world’s printed and online media and many of them may escape the attention of busy readers. At The Times of Central Asia, we strongly believe that more information can better contribute to peaceful development and better knowledge of this unique region. So we are presenting this Weekly Digest which compiles what other media have reported on Central Asia over the past week.


Activist Defending Ethnic Kazakhs In China Explains Why He Had To Flee Kazakhstan

As China is a major investor in and trade partner of Kazakhstan, Kazakh authorities tend to turn a blind eye on the persecution of ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang

Jan 18 — “Tens of thousands of ethnic Kazakhs in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have been sent to "reeducation camps" along with hundreds of thousands of others from that western province after being rounded up by China because they are Muslims. Serikzhan Bilash is one of the people who helped bring this great injustice to light by exposing the suffering of ethnic Kazakhs at the camps in Xinjiang.” READ MORE:

Photo Report: What Air Does Nur-Sultan Inhale?

According to the World Air Quality, Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan gets into the category of the most gas-polluted and dangerous to health cities of the world from time to time

Jan 19 — “Thus, in the morning of January 5, the atmosphere of the capital of Kazakhstan was recorded to contain serious excess of carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. According to the source, the concentration of particulate matter in the air was 185 micrograms per cubic metre. However, this standard in large cities must not exceed 25 micrograms per cubic metre.” READ MORE:

Kazakhstan: Authorities punish NGOs that called out vote irregularities

Advocacy groups say this pressure shows the authorities are not serious about political reform

Jan 20 — “When President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev talked of transforming Kazakhstan into a “Listening State” after coming to power in 2019, his promise sparked hopes the country’s beleaguered civil society would finally be able to make its voice heard. Instead, nearly two years into his rule, independent groups are complaining of a wave of coordinated political pressure under the guise of claims of financial reporting irregularities, which is leading to suspensions and crippling fines.” READ MORE:


Should Europe Worry About Kyrgyzstan?

Sadyr Japarov’s rise to power and a return to presidentialism demonstrate the limits of democracy promotion in Kyrgyzstan

Jan 16 — “The results of the January 10 elections — which completed the elevation of Sadyr Japarov from prisoner to president — came as a bitter confirmation of the fears of many observers of Kyrgyzstan. In the elections, less than 40 percent of registered voters cast ballots and 79 percent chose Japarov, while more than 80 percent supported his proposal of amending the constitution to allow for a return to presidentialism.” READ MORE:

Reforms in the State Committee for National Security of Kyrgyzstan: parliamentary and civilian control needs to be strengthened

Kyrgyzstan needs to create legal and institutional barriers in order to stop the practice of using the State Committee for National Security by politicians as an instrument of political influence

Jan 19 — “On December 24, 2020, during a press conference, Kamchybek Tashiev, Chairman of the State Committee for National Security (SCNS) of the Kyrgyz Republic, announced the initiation of a criminal case against the Chairman of the Supreme Court Gulnara Kaliyeva on corruption in the development and implementation of the automated information system “Local Court”. The fact that the State Committee for National Security has initiated a case against the highest official of the Supreme Court speaks of the degree of influence of this state power structure.” READ MORE:

The Pursuit of “Happiness” Or How Financial Pyramids Work in Kyrgyzstan?

Every year, Kyrgyzstan records dozens of financial pyramid schemes, while losses of citizens amount to millions

Jan 20 — “Since the beginning of the year, the country was overwhelmed with a series of events related to financial pyramids. These schemes were reportedly located in various towns and cities of the republic. Despite the measures taken by the government and the National Bank to improve financial literacy, people still believe in such “miracles” and participate in financial frauds.” READ MORE:


Older People Not Spared in Tajikistan’s Crackdown

An 80-year-old jailed for 7 years for helping families of political prisoners in Tajikistan

Jan 20 — “Doniyor Nabiev was just trying to help people in need. The 80-year-old man from the Rudaki region of Tajikistan had been sharing his retirement savings with the local families of political prisoners. Over several years he had passed on between $15-$30 monthly to the impoverished relatives of jailed members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, an opposition party the Tajik government banned in 2015 and declared a terrorist organization without credible evidence.” READ MORE:

Tajikistan: Authorities somehow find more room for internet censorship

This latest wave of blocks appears linked to a change in the tax code

Jan 21 — “Anybody who imagined authorities in Tajikistan had run out of ways to censor the internet needs to think again. As of this week, Zoom teleconferencing software, which has become an essential go-to for remote business meetings, stopped functioning. Experts speculate, since officials often refrain from divulging their motivations for blocking websites, that this may be linked to recently adopted provisions on taxing software companies providing services to clients inside Tajikistan.” READ MORE:

Lawyer Gets Jail Term After Posting About Injustice In The Tajik Justice System

Saidnuriddin Shamsiddinov was only calling for a fair judiciary to emerge in Tajikistan, but he appears to have become the latest victim of an unjust practice that has been a hallmark of the country's court system throughout nearly 30 years of independence

Jan 21 — “One of the most hazardous jobs in Tajikistan is being a lawyer -- at least the type of lawyer who believes in genuine justice. Buzurgmehr Yorov and Nuriddin Makhkamov are two examples. Yorov suddenly faced criminal charges after daring to defend Tajik opposition figures in court and Makhkamov faced similar charges after trying to defend Yorov.” READ MORE:


Turkmenistan: Power to the Afghan people

In its ‘Akhal-Teke: A Turkmenistan Bulletin’, Eurasianet reviews the main news and events in the Central Asian country for the previous week

Jan 19 — “Turkmenistan has become the first country in Central Asia to certify Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine. The Russian Direct Investment Fund, or RDIF, the sovereign wealth fund behind the vaccine’s development, crowed that this was because its “partners highly evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.” But where else is Turkmenistan supposed to turn?” READ MORE:

Head of the TIHR Farid Tukhbatullin on the 2021 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders and Soltan Achilova’s nomination

Being an independent journalist is a difficult, and often dangerous, job

Jan 20 — “On 18 January, 2021 it transpired that the Turkmen independent journalist Soltan Achilova was selected as a Finalist for the 2021 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. Except Soltan Achilova, human rights defenders Loujain Al Hathloul from Saudi Arabia and Yu Wensheng from China were also selected as Finalists.” READ MORE:

Deep-water friendship: Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan bury Caspian Sea hatchet

The two neighbouring countries across the Caspian agree to join forces in exploring and developing contested deep-water block as relations have warmed

Jan 21 — “Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan have agreed to settle decades-long claims on a large oil and gas block in the Caspian Sea, with new plans for joint operations in the region. The foreign ministers of the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in the Turkmen capital of Ashgabat on Thursday to consider joint exploration and development of the Dostluk acreage.” READ MORE:


Uzbekistan: Refinery workers strike over alleged layoff plans

The company says it is embarked on a major refurbishment

Jan 19 — “Workers at an oil refinery in eastern Uzbekistan have been on strike since January 10 over reported job cut plans. Management at the refinery denies that it is mulling mass layoffs. RFE/RL’s Uzbek service, Radio Ozodlik, reported on January 19 that workers at the Altyaryk plant in the Ferghana province have resorted to sit-ins on the street to drive their point home. Footage captured by the broadcaster shows workers carrying signs bearing slogans like “Help us,” “Give us work,” and “Give us oil.” READ MORE:

'Swamp Of Poverty': Uzbek Cotton Farmers Refusing To Work With 'Cluster' Monopoly

Uzbekistan’s cluster reforms have proven to be a new form of “hidden” or “secret privatization” — a scheme used during the 1990s by corrupt officials and their private-sector cronies in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe to plunder the assets of state firms

Jan 20 — “Uzbek farmers say they are fed up with the private monopolies they’ve been “forced” to work through in recent years to grow and sell crops under Uzbekistan’s agriculture reform strategy -- the so-called “cluster” system. Now, in the Shovot district of the northwestern region of Khorezm, scores of cotton farmers are refusing to sign contracts for 2021 with the private textile “cluster” firms that dominate the area.” READ MORE:

Uzbekistan: Temperatures plummet, tempers soar

This winter, Uzbekistan's utilities system is proving itself not just unfit for purpose, but actively dangerous for its users

Jan 20 — “As winter temperatures in Uzbekistan plunged, tempers rose. An unusually long stretch of cold weather in the last few months has exposed the state’s inability to provide basic amenities and generated shows of public discontent unimaginable a few years ago. One popular video that circulated on social media at the start of January showed a young boy dressed in a fur hat reading a poem lamenting the lack of electricity and gas at his home.” READ MORE:


Undermining The Taliban? Kabul Tries To Bolster Its Religious Credentials

Among the most contentious issues under negotiation is the role of Islam in a future power-sharing government and whose version of Islam should shape postwar Afghanistan

Jan 21 — “Afghanistan’s government has been fighting the Taliban militarily for many years, but Kabul is increasingly waging an ideological battle with the Islamist group. On the battlefield, government forces and Taliban militants are fighting a grinding war for control of the country. Off the battlefield, the foes are fighting a war for religious legitimacy in the predominantly Islamic country. That latter struggle has intensified as the adversaries hold peace talks aimed at ending the 19-year war.” READ MORE:

Afghanistan's Saffron Diplomacy

Saffron diplomacy is a shining example of Afghanistan's displaying diplomatic strength with Afghan diplomats making sure the spice plays a soft power to introduce the image of a new Afghanistan

Jan 21 — “The Afghan society and economy are witnessing some cumulative, yet, major transformations pertaining to its ever amplifying active participation of youth in the social, cultural, and political realms and its surging trade and commerce catering to the domestic as well as international markets. Although, the contesting element of aspiring demographic dividend vis-a-vis security challenges in the country is aptly acknowledged internationally, there are some other vital changes that have occurred that have gravitated little or no attention of the world but have the potential to reshape, revamp, and reorient the future economic, social, and security roadmap of Afghanistan.” READ MORE:

Conspiring on Afghan soil? Sino-Pak collusion in Kabul

Beijing’s growing interest in co-conspiring with Pakistan on Afghan soil adds to the growing tensions in the subcontinent, heightening concern over cross-border terrorism post US troop withdrawal

Jan 22 — “The Afghan government recently busted a ten-member Chinese spy syndicate who were allegedly in contact with the Haqqani network late in December 2020. This spy ring — supposedly linked to the Chinese Intelligence Agency, Ministry of State Security — is said to have been deported around the 10th of December 2020, arranged by the Chinese government. While the details of their espionage activities in Afghanistan have remained undisclosed, various Indian media reports indicate alleged contact with members of both the Haqqani network and the Taliban.” READ MORE:


Do Russia and China Have Coordinated Strategies Towards Central Asia?

The atmosphere of trust and the lack of competition and rivalry between China and Russia in Central Asia are the most important factors driving security and regional stability

Jan 12 — “Over the course of three months, that is, almost simultaneously, the foreign ministers of Russia and China held very similar meetings with their counterparts from the five Central Asian countries. All of them were held in a 5 + 1 format. Does this mean that the region has come to be seen by the major powers as a single bloc? Does such consistency mean the coordination of these countries in determining their general policy towards the countries of Central Asia?” READ MORE:

Exit from a Sparse Hegemony: Central Asia’s Place in a Transforming Liberal International Order

Central Asia is a far more dense and contested region, where different sources of order and norms openly co-exist, compete and interact with one another

Jan 21 — “As Joe Biden takes office, many people are optimistic that he can restore international confidence in the United States and return America to its proper place as a global leader. But that may not be possible. In our book Exit from Hegemony we argue that the era of American global hegemony is over and that the international order built by Washington in the immediate post-Cold War era has eroded significantly. It has been replaced by an emerging order that is more contested and multipolar. While U.S. President Trump helped to accelerate some of these dynamics, these pathways of change predated his tenure and will only continue to accelerate during the Biden Administration.” READ MORE:

Turkish company to build an enrichment plant in East Kazakhstan

  • Written by TCA

NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — The Turkish company Yilmaden Holding, a subsidiary of the Yildirim Group, plans to build a chromite enrichment plant in the East Kazakhstan region. The project is being implemented with the support of Kazakh Invest national investment promotion company, Kazakh Invest said on January 22.

Depending on the raw material potential of the region, which will be confirmed after the geological exploration stage, Yilmaden is considering investment in modern metallurgical enterprises and processing raw materials into a final product with high added value at the local level.

“The project for the construction of a chromite ore beneficiation complex is a new opportunity to maintain and expand the existing production of chromite ore, concentrates and ferrochrome in the region. Investors plan to provide medium-term and long-term supplies of chrome ore both for their existing business and for new investment opportunities in the region, which will allow the company to become a local producer and exporter of ferrochrome," said the Regional Director of Kazakh Invest for East Kazakhstan Region Nartai Beisekov.

It is expected that after three years of geological exploration and the development of a detailed feasibility study, construction of a mining and processing complex for processing chromite will begin, which will take two years.

The minimum capacity of the ore-processing complex is expected to be 300 thousand tons. It is planned to create over 70 permanent jobs.

Yilmaden Holding is the second largest producer of high quality high carbon ferrochrome and one of the largest producers of chrome ore in the world.

The Yildirim Group is one of the largest Turkish industrial conglomerates active in industries such as metallurgy and mining, coal and coke, power generation, fertilizers and chemicals. Yildirim Group also works in such areas as port management, logistics, shipping, industrial construction and real estate.

US to review Afghanistan peace deal with Taliban

  • Written by TCA

KABUL (TCA) — The United States intends to review an agreement reached with the Taliban last year in order to determine if the militant group is meeting its commitments under the Afghan peace accord, RFE/RL Gandhara reported.

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Business confidence record high among US companies in Taiwan

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TAIPEI (TCA) — Confidence levels on the business climate for the year ahead has reached a record high among U.S. companies in Taiwan, despite severe challenges faced by markets around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Focus Taiwan reported.

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Caritas Germany launches new projects worth EUR 1.4 million to improve the quality of life of vulnerable people in Central Asia

  • Written by TCA

DUSHANBE (TCA) — The Branch of the German Caritas Association in Tajikistan (Caritas Germany) launched its three new projects at a virtual meeting held on January 18-19 with participation of representatives of implementing partner organizations from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. The participants familiarized themselves with the projects’ goals and objectives and donors’ basic requirements for the successful implementation of the projects in the context of COVID-19 pandemic.

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Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan reach agreement on Caspian hydrocarbons field

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ASHGABAT, BAKU (TCA) — Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have reached a preliminary agreement on the joint exploration of a once-disputed section of an undersea hydrocarbons field in the Caspian Sea believed to hold lucrative energy reserves, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reported.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said on January 21 that Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and his Turkmenistan counterpart, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, supervised the online signing of a memorandum on the mutual intention to jointly explore and develop the Dostluk (Friendship) undersea field.

The field used to be called Kapaz by Baku and Serdar by Ashgabat.

The undersea field was discovered by Soviet explorers in 1986. Experts estimate that the Dostluk hydrocarbons field contains natural gas and at least 50 million tons of oil.

For many years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Baku and Ashgabat were at odds over the ownership of the undersea field.

The settlement of the issue will help pave the way for a trans-Caspian pipeline — a multibillion-dollar plan to link Turkmenistan's giant gas fields to Europe via Azerbaijan.

Uzbekistan PM replaces leadership at metallurgic plant controlled by powerful tycoon

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TASHKENT (TCA) — Uzbekistan Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov has replaced the leadership at a large industrial facility controlled by the clan of influential tycoon, Kazakhstan-based Uzbek-Belgian billionaire Patokh Shodiev, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported.

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Kazakhstan: Rural residents to receive loans for businesses that contribute to conservation of biodiversity

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NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — Second phase of the Eco-Damu Loan Program for the period of 2020-2024 was launched by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kazakhstan, jointly with the Forestry and Wildlife Committee of the Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources of Kazakhstan and the Fund of Financial Support for Agriculture, UNDP in Kazakhstan said on January 20.

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EU and OSCE support construction at Tajikistan’s Committee of Emergency Situations and Civil Defense Training Centre

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DUSHANBE (TCA) — High-level representatives from Tajikistan’s Committee of Emergency Situations and Civil Defense (CoESCD), the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe and the European Union Delegation to Tajikistan participated in the official start of renovation work on the CoESCD Training Centre on 19 January in Karatag, Shahrinav district. The renovation will turn the CoESCD Training Centre into a facility providing training where the Committee will be able to strengthen the capacity of responders on how to react to natural disasters in border regions.

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HRW denounces Kazakhstan's crackdown on rights groups

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NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — Human Rights Watch (HRW) says an ongoing "crackdown" on human rights groups in Kazakhstan for alleged financial-reporting violations casts "serious doubt" that the Central Asian country's leadership is serious about improving its human rights record, RFE/RL reported.

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Kyrgyzstan tycoon, wife change names after hit with US sanctions

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BISHKEK (TCA) — The former deputy chief of Kyrgyzstan's Customs Service, Raimbek Matraimov, has changed his last name after being placed on the U.S. Magnitsky sanctions list for his alleged involvement in the illegal funneling of hundreds of millions of dollars abroad, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported.

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New book highlights Central Asian SMEs’ timely trade potential

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BISHKEK (TCA) — A new ADBI Press book details policy imperatives for igniting small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) trade driven growth, poverty reduction, and food security in Central Asia crucial to the region’s COVID-19 recovery prospects, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Institute said on January 20.

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Kazakhstan needs own production of high-grade aluminum

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NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — Kazakhstan ranks 12th in the world in terms of bauxite reserves (365 million tons), from which aluminum is produced. But to date, even with huge reserves of bauxite, Kazakhstan imports processed aluminum products, the country’s Ministry of Trade and Integration reported on its website.

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Billions in aid needed to help Afghanistan children this year, charity says

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KABUL (TCA) — As many as 10 million Afghan children are at risk of not having enough food to eat in 2021, a humanitarian organization said on January 19, calling for billions of dollars in aid, RFE/RL reported.

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Kyrgyzstan: Former president's relative arrested on corruption charges

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BISHKEK (TCA) — Aibek Tokoev, an in-law relative of former Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, has been arrested on corruption charges, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported.

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Kazakhstan to start mass vaccination against COVID-19 on February 1

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NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — At the government meeting on January 19, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Askar Mamin ordered the Ministry of Healthcare, together with akimats (local state administrations), to ensure the readiness of medical organizations across the country for the start of mass vaccination of the population with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine from February 1, reported.

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Uzbekistan to abolish state monopoly over gas and electricity supply

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TASHKENT (TCA) — Uzbekistan plans to abolish special government permits and customs duty on imported liquefied petroleum gas from March 1 and create a wholesale market for electricity, according to a draft document released on January 18, Xinhua news agency reported.

The draft presidential decree on the State Program for 2021 also provides for allowing large enterprises to import energy resources which will eventually introduce market mechanisms in the country's energy sector.

The Uzbek Ministry of Energy will be tasked with overseeing the implementation of the roadmap and allow enterprises to import electricity and gas from August 1, the draft document said.

Earlier this month, the ministry said that Uzbekistan has been importing electricity from neighboring countries to meet domestic demand amid winter power shortages.

Uzbekistan’s electricity generation is heavily dependent on coal-burning power plants, but in recent years the country has taken steps to start switching to solar and wind energy generation.

Russian authorities say 'coronavirus-free' Turkmenistan registers Sputnik V vaccine

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ASHGABAT (TCA) — The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) says Turkmenistan has registered Russia's Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19 even though the country claims to have no cases of the coronavirus.

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Turkmenistan journalist among top rights prize finalists

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ASHGABAT (TCA) — A 71-year-old Turkmen journalist has been nominated among three finalists for a prestigious human rights award for her reports from Turkmenistan, one of the most repressive countries in the world, RFE/RL reported.

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EU-UNESCO project supports the agricultural sector in Uzbekistan

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TASHKENT (TCA) — A two-day National Workshop within the context of the “Skills development for employability in rural areas of Uzbekistan” project was launched with the participation of national experts from across the country, the Delegation of the European Union to Uzbekistan reported on January 18. The workshop is hosted by the European Union, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Ministry of Higher and Secondary Specialized Education of Uzbekistan (MHSSE) and the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) of Uzbekistan.

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Uzbekistan: Activist claims corruption in distribution of compensation from deadly dam accident

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TASHKENT (TCA) — An Uzbek rights activist and blogger says several people have been jailed after they complained of corruption in the distribution of housing and financial compensation for victims of a deadly dam accident in the eastern region of Sirdaryo last year, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reported.

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Turkmenistan: New compressor station to boost natural-gas export to China

  • Written by TCA

ASHGABAT (TCA) — A new gas-compressor station at the Malay natural-gas field in Turkmenistan’s Lebap region was commissioned on January 15 with participation of Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.

The ceremony was attended by representatives of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) in Turkmenistan, the Turkmen Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

In his speech, the President of Turkmenistan underlined that the energy policy of Turkmenistan that has vast reserves of hydrocarbon resources is aimed at the overall development of the oil and gas sector and its effective integration into the world energy system.

The Director General of CNPC International Turkmenistan Li Shuliang said that the commissioning of the gas-compressor station will expand the opportunities of exporting the natural gas of Turkmenistan to the international markets.

The commissioning of the gas-compressor station with the annual capacity of 30 billion cubic meters will widen the export supplies of the Turkmen natural gas, the Turkmen Foreign Ministry said. Currently, the People’s Republic of China is the largest importer of the Turkmen natural gas. Billions of cubic meters of natural gas go into the international gas pipeline Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-China.

The new gas-compressor station is located in the place in the eastern region of the country where transnational Turkmenistan–China gas pipeline begins, the State News Agency of Turkmenistan reported.

Natural gas is produced at the Malay deposit in Lebap Region since 1986. This complex supplies gas for Turkmenistan–Uzbekistan–Kazakhstan–China gas pipeline via 188-km Malay–Bagtiyarlyk gas line.

The Bagtiyarlyk Contractual Territory, where the official opening ceremony of Central Asia–China gas pipeline was held with participation of the heads of Turkmenistan, China, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan on December 14, 2009, is located next to Malay field.

As of today, a total of 290 billion cubic meters of natural gas have been delivered to China by joint efforts of partners from the fields developed by Turkmengaz State Concern and CNPC International Turkmenistan.



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