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Barys Astana to Play Traktor Chelyabinsk in First Round of Gagarin Cup

Wed, 2017-02-22 03:23

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – HC Barys finished fifth in the regular season of the Eastern Conference of the Continental Hockey League (KHL) and progressed to the Gagarin Cup playoffs for the eighth time. The previous season was the only season the Kazakh club failed to make the playoffs.

Barys won 90 points and will now meet HC Traktor Chelyabinsk in the first round. Pundits estimate that the ties between Barys and Traktor will be among the most unpredictable in the playoffs.

The teams have faced each other 25 times within the KHL. Traktor won 13 of those and Barys won 12. Curiously, the teams play better as visitors rather hosts with Traktor winning seven out of 12 and Barys claiming seven out of 13 away matches against each other. Last season, the regular championship confirmed the trend as each team won its away tie with a score of 4:3.

Astana and Chelyabinsk already played each other in playoffs once in the 2012/2013 season. Barys first led the series 2:0 after the initial away ties (4:3 OT, 5:3) but then lost three times in a row (1:3, 2:3, 3:6). In the third home match, HC Barys found the strength to tie the series with a 4:2 victory. Nevertheless, the Astana club lost the decider in Chelyabinsk. Following the hard-won victory, Traktor passed two more rounds and reached the Gagarin Cup finals where it was stopped by HC Dynamo Moscow.

The two inaugural matches of the series will be contested in Chelyabinsk on Feb. 22 and 24 while the return games in Astana are scheduled for Feb. 26 and 28.

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Kazakh athletes placed fourth following three days at Asian Winter Games in Japan

Tue, 2017-02-21 08:31

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

SAPPORO – The VIII Asian Winter Games are taking place in Sapporo, Japan between Feb. 19 and 26. This Asiad, as the games are also known, is the first since the 2011 Games held in Almaty and Astana, where Team Kazakhstan won a record number of medals, beating the traditional leaders of the Asian winter sports – Japan, China, and South Korea.

Rinat Mukhin. Photo:

Kazakh athletes, among others, took part in the opening ceremony of the games on Feb. 19.  Five-time national champion in cross-country skiing Yerdos Akhmadiyev carried the Kazakhstan’s banner at the opening Parade of Nations.

One-hundred-sixteen athletes are taking part in the Asiad. Team Kazakhstan will compete in numerous events. Kazakhstan’s most decorated athletes in Sapporo include Denis Ten (figure skating), Dmitry Reiherd, Julia Galysheva (freestyle) and Galina Vishnevskaya (biathlon).

“The Asian Games are one of the season’s key competitions for our country. Following the Winter Universiade in Almaty where our athletes showed excellent results, we understand that some of the athletes might be tired. Our delegation stays positive, and we hope for many great wins at the Asian Games,” said Chairperson of the Sports and Physical Education Committee at the Ministry of Sports and Culture of Kazakhstan Elsiyar Kanagatov.

On Feb. 20, the second day when medals were contested, Kazakh cross-country skier Yelena Kolomnina claimed silver in the 1.4 km individual sprint classical race. Speed skaters and short track skaters were close to climbing the podium but ultimately failed to do so. Also, the women’s ice hockey national team and men’s curling teams have started their performances in Sapporo.

The following day, the team won its first gold. Cross-country skier Rinat Mukhin triumphed in the men’s 15-kilometers race in free style. His teammate Kolomnina climbed the podium of the women’s 10-kilometers race, in free style too. Speed skater Denis Kuzin won silver in the men’s 1,000-meters race.

Following day three, Kazakhstan is ranked fourth in the informal medal ranking, following Japan (eight gold, eight silver, and seven bronze medals), South Korea (six gold, seven silver, and seven bronze medals) and China (five gold, three silver, and five bronze medals).

Team Kazakhstan’s premiere at a Winter Asiad took place in 1996 in Harbin. Over the period of the nation’s independence, Kazakh athletes have won 69 gold, 51 silver and 44 bronze medals, which is 164 in total. At the VII Winter Asian Games in 2011 in Astana and Almaty, team Kazakhstan took first place in the team standings, winning 32 gold, 21 silver and 17 bronze medals.

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Parliamentarism is pillar of democratic state

Tue, 2017-02-21 08:22

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

Hayk Babukhanyan, chairperson of the Armenian Constitutional Rights Union Party, deputy of the Armenian National Assembly and deputy chairperson of the Commonwealth of Independent States Inter-parliamentary Assembly (CIS IPA) commission for science and education, recently spoke with The Astana Times concerning the Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s latest initiative of a constitutional reform.


As you are aware, the Kazakh political leadership has plans to introduce amendments to the constitution in order to launch systematic transfer to a model with stronger elements of parliamentarism. President Nursultan Nazarbayev recently made the announcement and the provisional commission has already submitted proposals on the first stage of the necessary public procedures. Considering the legal traditions of the CIS, do you feel this is a timely initiative for Kazakhstan?

I am aware of political development trends in your country and I am interested in them, particularly regarding amendments to the constitution of Kazakhstan, and this is natural since our two countries are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union). I took a close look at the address of Nazarbayev on this significant matter and at the draft law on introducing amendments to the constitution of Kazakhstan. The point of the issue is about redistribution of authorities between branches of the government, which corresponds to the democratic principle of separation of powers. The President is delegating a number of his current powers to the parliament and the government, thus strengthening the parliamentary control and influence of the legislative body on social and political processes in the society.

Speaking about timeliness, it is up to the individual country to decide the very fateful moment to undertake reforms in the governance system to increase its effectiveness. The choice of time for reforms of a state structure depends on trends of social relations development in a country and on challenges faced by a society. Kazakhstan, in 25 years of independence, has achieved remarkable successes in the economy, development of social relations, culture and education; therefore, if Nazarbayev initiated a transfer of a portion of his powers to the parliament, government, the judiciary and local government at this point in time, then there is a necessity to undertake reforms.

Following the collapse of the USSR, adoption of a presidential form of governance was a common trend among the CIS countries at the early stage of development. Somewhere, this kind of presidential hierarchy was more peremptory, somewhere less; however, a presidential form of governance was the closest one to the legal traditions in the post-Soviet space for newly-independent countries without an experience in parliamentarism, a multiparty system and state governance with divided branches of government. Within the last 25 years, reforms of governance systems towards strengthening the parliamentarism had also been the common trend for the CIS countries; as a result, political systems appeared to be more flexible.

In your opinion, are there any specific features of Armenian parliamentarism which determined the earlier launch of such reforms in comparison to other EAEU states, including Kazakhstan? It is no secret the closest political cooperation takes place within integration associations. Would the transit to a different model bring fluctuations to the uniformity of the union’s single economic life?

Armenian parliamentarism was established at the time of the first republic in 1918. However, the peculiarity of Armenian parliamentarism is the fact that Armenian parliamentarians had worked in the parliaments of many European countries, as well as Russia, Turkey and other countries, long before. This was the case during 20th century; the same is now, and consequently the work of Armenian parliamentarians in various countries is surely helping us.

The constitution of Armenia of 1995 provided a strict pyramid of the presidential form of governance. However, after 10 years – in 2005, Armenia conducted a constitutional reform; as a result, part of the presidential powers was delegated to the parliament and government. Those reforms and current processes in Kazakhstan have something in common; at that time, Armenia had become a country with a semi-presidential form of governance. Armenian society had always considered itself as a part of European civilisation with a tradition of freethinking and other democratic institutions. Already in 2015, the need in the promotion of civil liberties and strengthening of parliamentary control led to the need of a new constitutional reform. In addition, it should be noted that the concept of democratic institutions’ development within the semi-presidential form of government could create certain situations which would negatively affect the internal political stability of the country. All these things brought us to the constitutional reform, according to which Armenia became a parliamentary republic and now we experience the transition process towards the new form of governance.

As for certain disharmonious interrelations within the EAEU caused by dissimilarities in the forms of governance of the participating states, I think that there are only protocol issues and nothing more. Some distinctions between the state administration systems of the EAEU member countries existed even before our reform. The majority of the states had the presidential form of government, while Armenia – semi-presidential, but these differences did not have any impact on our joint work. Moreover, there are many examples of other integration communities; for instance, the European Union, where countries with various forms of governance work effectively. When it comes to integration, the most important is the desire of our peoples and an efficient policy of all branches of power that is aimed at integration.

What would you recommend to Kazakh partners with regard to future reforms, taking into account the ongoing constitutional transformations in Armenia and the growing parliamentary electoral campaign in accordance with the new system?

Undoubtedly, the enforcement of parliamentarism and political institutions is one of the pillars of a democratic state. Although Armenia is still in the transition period towards the parliamentary model, however, those advantages achieved by the country due to the constitutional reform are already seen. The role of the parliament in state governance has been significantly increased and this trend is still growing. The role of political parties has been enhanced; civil liberties are more tangible and more affordable for our citizens. Regarding the pace of such reforms, it is necessary to keep in mind the specificity of each country. Therefore, both artificial delays and attempts to outrun the natural course of the society’s development are dangerous for this process. Pulling reforms and revolutionary changes too quickly may cause totally reverse effects. Instead of democratic institutions – chaos, instead of effective management – backlash, instead of economic improvement – havoc. It happened already when ultraliberals applied the method of shocking therapy in the post-Soviet space under the orders of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other western structures. Thus, any reform should be interpreted carefully and unhurriedly. Nevertheless, I think that in this case this advice is not relevant for Kazakhstan, since the whole history of Kazakhstan’s political and economic system reforms evidences the accuracy and precision of all steps.

What is the most import area of interparliamentary cooperation between our countries in the context of the reforms?

The cooperation between our legislatures is carried out mainly through the Interparliamentary Assembly of the CIS countries. This is a very important and effective structure for legislation harmonisation in the CIS countries; however, the essential priority area should be both the promotion of bilateral Armenian-Kazakh interparliamentary interrelations and inter-party contacts. Moreover, we have to intensify through our parliaments the mutual relations between different segments of our societies: intellectuals, academia, students, etc. Armenians and Kazakhs are brotherly nations; we have the rich and warm-hearted common history during the USSR period. It was created by our grandparents and parents and the mission of our generation is not only to preserve, but also to pass it to our youth, who did not witness the Soviet Union.

I would like to use this opportunity to thank the President of Kazakhstan for the high level state award I received on the eve of the New Year, as well as to express gratitude to the Kazakh Embassy in Armenia headed by Ambassador Timur Urazaev for active collaboration with the parliamentary structures of Armenia.

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Astana Arlans beat Russian Patriots, Uzbek Tigers in WSB kickoff

Tue, 2017-02-21 08:16

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.


ASTANA – The Astana Arlans, the two-time World Series Boxing (WSB) winner, has started the franchise’s new season with two impressive victories – 3-2 over the Russian Patriots in Moscow and 4-1 at home in Taldyqorghan over the Uzbek Tigers.

In the match, Temirtas Zhussupov (up to 49 kg) lost to his Russian opponent Bator Sagaluyev in the opening bout. Next, 2014 Asian Games champion Ilyas Suleimenov (up to 56 kg) evened the score, defeating Artem Khotenov by unanimous decision. Radmir Abdurakhmanov (up to 64 kg) beat Dilmurat Mizhitov to bring the Russian team forward again.

Astana’s Abilkhan Amankul fought against Radzhab Radzhabov in the up to 75-kg weight category. The Kazakh boxer won the bout, knocking out his opponent in the fourth round. The fight in the 91-kg weight category was decisive. Anton Pinchuk took an uneasy win over Ilya Kvasnikov, bringing the Arlans its first win of the season.

“It is always nice to return with a remarkable win. This fight was quite tough. We had to work hard to win. There were many tactical moments during the fight where I had to show grit. Character, strength and experience helped to win,” said Pinchuk.

After the match, Astana Arlans general manager Serik Sapiyev was clearly pleased with his team’s result.

“Of course, I am happy that everything went well and the match ended with our win. Each of our fighters showed good boxing tonight, as each sought to win his bout. Some of them lacked luck, some lacked skills to win. However, despite two failures I am very pleased with the result, as we secured a victory over a [strong] Russian team. We have ambitious goals in the new season and we must try as best we can to achieve them and prove the high level of the Kazakh boxing school once again,” he said.

A week later, the Arlans earned a win over Uzbek Tigers. Last season, the Kazakh and Uzbek teams met twice and exchanged wins with the same 4-1score. Unlike the Kazakh team, the beginning of the new season was not successful for Uzbek squad, who lost to the Chinese Dragons in the away match.


After their defeat in China, the Uzbek team’s coaching staff brought the fighting strength to the Taldyqorghan match – three of the five boxers won medals at last year’s Rio Summer Olympics. The home team put out proven fighters led by new captain Olzhas Sattybayev.

Lightweight (up to 52 kg) category boxers Sattybayev and Abrorzhon Kodirov opened the match. Sattybayev has not participated in WSB for almost a year and obviously missed the format. The Arlans’ new captain controlled the bout with confidence and after five rounds won by the judges’ unanimous decision.

In the 60-kg category, the Arlans were represented by Zakir Safiullin, who fought 2016 Olympic medallist Murodzhon Akhmadaliyev. The Kazakh boxer had an advantage and his final win was never in doubt.

The third bout of the evening turned out to be the most emotional one. Aslanbek Shymbergenov (up to 69 kg) took quite an uneasy win over 2016 Olympic silver medallist Shakhram Giyassov.

In the 81-kg category bout, Nurdaulet Zharmanov fought against Bektimir Melikuziyev. The competitors were quite equal, but the judges gave the victory to Melikuziyev, who thus scored the team’s first win.

Heavyweights (over 91 kilograms) Kamshybek Konkabayev and Bakhodir Zhalolov closed the match. Konkabayev took a confident win over Zhalolov, setting the final 4-1 score.

The WSB is a league that sees the world’s best amateur boxers competing in teams without headgear and using the scoring system of the International Boxing Association (AIBA). According to the WSB website, the origin of the league “reunited the broader boxing world and its grassroots amateur foundation by providing a bridge between Olympic Boxing and a future professional programme within the AIBA family.”

WSB is wholly owned by AIBA. All WSB boxers are also registered with AIBA and all referees and officials working at WSB matches are specifically certified for the competition. Franchises have a national identity and are formed by national federations. Teams are allowed a quota of overseas boxers: a maximum of eight in total and no more than three of the same nationality.

Teams compete in the ten AIBA standard weight categories. The regular season takes the form of a league phase, with the teams facing each other home and away in alternating weight categories. The top teams continue to the playoff stages.

Teams representing franchises across the globe compete in a league format leading to playoffs and a final. The boxers compete without vests or headgear in five three-minute rounds and five bouts per match.

This year, WSB includes three geographically-based groups each with four teams. The Arlans are in the Asia group with the Russian Patriots, Uzbek Tigers and China Dragons. The other groups are Americas and Europe and Middle East and Africa. The first two teams from the groups and two best-ranked third teams will reach the playoffs.

In WSB’s six seasons, the Astana Arlans won the league in 2012-2013 and 2014-2015 and were the runners-up in the inaugural 2010-2011 season. Last year, the team lost to the British Lionhearts in the semifinals.

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Kazakh Boxer Zhanat Zhakiyanov wins WBA (Super), IBO world champion titles

Tue, 2017-02-21 08:02

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakh professional boxer Zhanat Zhakiyanov recently claimed the World Boxing Association (WBO) title of Undisputed Champion and the International Boxing Organization (IBO) title of world champion in bantamweight by defeating American Rau’shee Warren in Toledo, Ohio (USA).

Photo: World Boxing Association

The fight’s favourite ahead of the bout was  Warren who held the two titles contested on the night. The Kazakh boxer, who had had a year-and-a-half break, was viewed as a clear underdog.

The beginning of the bout was promising for the American. He knocked down Zhakiyanov twice as early as the first round. However, it did not break down the Kazakh boxer, and he went on, giving his opponent heavy blows into head and body.

The 33-year-old native of Petropavlovsk, North Kazakhstan, continued to dominate in the following rounds, providing one attack after another. Warren had little choice but to try to cover up.

Zhakiyanov’s advantage could be felt in every round. The two boxers fought for the win until the very last seconds of the bout. Following the final whistle, Zhakiyanov was granted a victory by a split decision.

“We all believed in Zhanat. We know that he is very persistent and hard-working, and the only doubt was his [physical] condition. His opponent was very strong. We all were rooting for Zhanat and knew he would do his best to win. So, we are happy it all ended well,” said the Vice President of Kazakhstan’s Professional Boxing Federation and the 1980 Moscow Olympics silver medallist Viktor Demyanenko.

“The beginning of the bout was quite surprising to me. I missed a knockdown, and when the referee counted, I looked at Warren and saw him smiling and shaking his head, as if he was saying, “Got you!” … It made me angry and motivated me greatly. After all, I trained so hard and so long for this match, so I could not allow losing in the first round. I decided I would fight till the end, and then whatever happens, happens… I would like to thank fans for their support once again. I felt it during the bout. This is the biggest win of my life [so far]. I would like to dedicate it to my country,” Zhakiyanov said after the fight.

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Kazakhstan’s Senate Speaker Tokayev addresses Munich Conference, urges security cooperation

Tue, 2017-02-21 01:52

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Chairman of the Senate of the Parliament of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev told a panel discussion at the Feb. 18 Munich Security Conference that it is important to build reliable and friendly relations between the countries of Central Asia and Eurasia and the rest of the world.

According to a press release from the chamber, Tokayev highlighted during the session, titled The Fault Lines of Eurasia, that Kazakhstan has no territorial issues with any of its neighbours, as all the state borders were completely delimited, including the Kazakh-Russian border, which is the world’s longest continuous land border between two countries.

Tokayev also told the panel that the Chinese One Belt, One Road initiative offers great opportunities for regional economic cooperation, including for the growth of transit potential and creating new industrial capacities in Eurasia.

The Senate chair also elaborated on the status of constitutional reforms put forward by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. “Kazakhstan is a reformist country. We strongly believe that we should not stop the transformation of our society either in economic areas or in the political domain. Structural reforms must go on in any circumstances so that Kazakhstan could advance towards the 30 most developed countries in the world”, Tokayev said.

The speaker informed about Kazakhstan’s priorities as a member of the UN Security Council for 2017-2018. He said the country places an emphasis on cooperation with the UN as an indispensable, universal global organisation. Tokayev also singled out the problem of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and nuclear materials, in particular, the threat of their falling into the hands of terrorists.

The Fault Lines of Eurasia panel was moderated by Ian Bremmer, president and founder of the political consultancy Eurasia Group. Other panel participants included Presidents Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and Ukraine’s former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

The panel was part of the annual conference, which this year attracted around 600 guests, including more than 30 heads of state and government, as well as members of parliaments, ministers, senior diplomats, generals and experts. The list of high-profile attendees also featured new UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Among the focuses of the event were the future of transatlantic relations and NATO, the war in Syria and security in Asia-Pacific. Delegates at the conference discussed terrorism, information warfare, global epidemiological situation and climate change.

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Marathon 2010: Kazakh diplomat’s book reflects on OSCE chairmanship experience

Tue, 2017-02-21 01:40

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Last month the Almaty-based Institute of World Economics and Politics presented a new book by Talgat Zhumagulov, a Kazakh diplomat, which describes the activities of the nation’s foreign service during the historic chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010.

According to a description by the publisher, “the modern history of Kazakhstan is still waiting for its historian but the evidence of direct participants of the events is of interest already today.”

Having read the 320-pages volume titled “Marathon 2010”, The Astana Times decided to approach the author and ask him a few questions about the fruit of his effort.

How was the idea of “Marathon 2010” conceived?

The idea of ​​writing a book came up in the early days of January 2011, right after the completion of the chairmanship. The book’s core content emerged during the subsequent year based on fresh memories and intensive interviews with colleagues. Great encouragement came from Kairat Abdrakhmanov (then Ambassador in Vienna, now Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister). I guess, if the book were started today, it would be very difficult to retrieve many valuable details from anyone’s memory. However, only years later it became possible to prepare the whole material for publication.

Speaker of the Senate Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who stayed at the forefront of preparation and execution of the chairmanship, in his foreword stressed Kazakhstan’s commitment to the OSCE and the importance of further in-depth study of the Organization’s ever-evolving phenomenon.

“The legacy of the Astana Summit and Kazakhstan’s chairmanship may become a distinct subject of a comprehensive analysis in academic and diplomatic circles,” he said.

I hope “Marathon 2010” will be a part of this subject.

What in your view is the main legacy of Kazakhstan’s OSCE chairmanship for both the country and the organisation?

First of all, the chairmanship work showed that Europe matters greatly for Kazakhstan, especially in terms of security, development and values. The years of nationwide preparation and carrying out of the chairmanship had strengthened the Europe-oriented political evolvement of the Kazakh society.

Secondly, according to many experts, Kazakhstan succeeded in drawing Europe’s considerable attention to Central Asia.

Thirdly, the management of such a large and complex organisation had enormously strengthened Kazakhstan’s diplomatic capacity. It was a great school for foreign affairs professionals at all levels.

I think the organisation itself had experienced a large ascent during the Kazakh leadership. At the very outset President Nursultan Nazarbayev made it clear that Kazakhstan would put forward an ambitious agenda and revitalise all the areas of OSCE’s work. The President’s swift actions during the political crisis in Kyrgyzstan, the chairmanship’s comprehensive and all-engaging dialogue on European security, the reinvigorated negotiating formats on protracted conflicts, promotion of values of tolerance and non-discrimination and many other activities got strong support and high appreciation from participating states.

And yes, the first OSCE Summit in the 21st century, with the adoption of the very substantial and far-reaching Astana Commemorative Declaration “Towards a Security Community,” is the most valuable legacy. It incorporates huge multilateral diplomatic and expert work and is still to be assessed adequately.

Photo by Amankul Duisembayev

What role do you see for the OSCE now and in future?

As I see it, the OSCE has two unique features. First, it is the only multilateral platform for dialogue on the most pressing security issues in Europe. Second, it provides practical toolkits for conflict prevention, management and resolution, all of which proved to be relevant in the Balkans, Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria, and recently in eastern Ukraine.

These two features define the OSCE’s indispensability today and for years to come. 

Do you get the sense that the Spirit of Astana, coming from the OSCE summit and the Astana Declaration, are still relevant for the body?

Kazakhstan’s idea of the OSCE Summit in 2010 was gigantic at first sight, but its substantive basis mainly derived from the OSCE’s lessons and insights from previous chairmanships, specifically the Finnish and the Greek.

We didn’t say we would invent a bicycle. We said, “we are starting a ‘Corfu Process’,” (named after the Greek island where its first meeting took place and set forth in the 2009 OSCE Athens Declaration on security dialogue). So, continuity is crucial to this organisation.

Kazakhstan swept everybody into a tough yearlong series of intensive all-encompassing multilateral negotiations and innumerable bilateral talks with each of the 56 members. Thus the “Spirit of Astana” is a spirit of the OSCE’s commonness, which for the first time was reflected in the notion of the “Trans-Atlantic and Eurasian Security Community” of the Summit Declaration.

It seems to me that the Astana Declaration was significantly ahead of its time. By today the participating states have not even begun proper implementation of this Summit level document. Yet it contains specific instructions and unique commitments.

How can people get hold of your book? Do you foresee a translation into English?

The book was supported and published by the Institute of World Economics and Politics (IWEP) under the Foundation of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Leader of the Nation. The IWEP is the only place to purchase the book thus far. My understanding is that there are some complexities in promoting it to the bookstores. I hope the issue will be resolved soon.

An English translation is an excellent idea. I think it is quite feasible and necessary work to do. The OSCE stories of 2010 can be very useful for future chairmanships, participating states’ diplomats and all those who study the issues of international security.

Riccardo Pelizzo

The name of the book hints at your hobby of running marathons. What does it give you? Do you see marathon running gaining in popularity in Kazakhstan?

The word “marathon” was used repeatedly by OSCE diplomats in Vienna as a description of the Astana Summit preparation process. In a way, this was an endurance race for many people involved. I thought it would be an interesting title for the book.

As for the athletic marathon, it has gained a huge popularity in Kazakhstan in recent years. The cities of Almaty and Astana host their own 42.2-kilometre races annually. In terms of organisation, the Kazakh mass marathon events are no less efficient and comfortable as compared to the world’s major city races. And in terms of the beauty of running routes they certainly have no rivals.

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Prime Minister addresses concerns about EXPO 2017 costs

Mon, 2017-02-20 01:29

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev recently responded to concerns over the high cost of hosting EXPO 2017.

“We will host the expo for three months. I understand that a lot of skeptics speak out about why we have spent so much money. Thirteen billion tenge (US$ 40.5 million) was allocated for the Universiade. Taking into account that we were able to save 4 billion tenge (US$12.4 million), Almaty has had a big effect from the Universiade. The expo will have a huge impact not only on Astana, but the entire country,” the head of the government said during a recent government meeting.

He also expressed confidence the expo would be held at a high level.

“Now we must work together to make sure the country’s next landmark event is held at a high level. I think it will be organised at a respectable level,” he added.

Sagintayev thanked the organisers of the Universiade and local athletes.

“The Ministry of Culture and Sport must make timely payments to the winners and prize-winners of the Universiade, as well as their coaches. They must prepare the corresponding resolution, without delay, and submit it to the prime minister’s office. The ministry, together with the Almaty akimat (mayor’s office) must address the further use of the sports facilities that were built (for the Universiade),” said Sagintayev.

In addition, he instructed the akims (mayors) of Astana and Almaty to share their experience in hosting such major events. He said Almaty’s experience in dealing with post-event use and repurposing of the facilities will be beneficial for Astana.


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Kazakh DJ signs contract with Armin Van Buuren

Mon, 2017-02-20 01:23

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – While singer Dimash Kudaibergen is rocking stages in the East, Kazakh DJ Farleon, also known as Sultan Karimov, signed a contract with the world-famous Dutch record label Armada Music in the West.

Kazakhstan’s mass media have been buzzing about Kudaibergen’s success in the Chinese television song contest Singer 2017, otherwise known as I Am a Singer, where he is the heavy favourite. Kudaibergen’s charisma and natural talent helped him conquer the hearts of the Chinese audience in just one day. But he is not alone, making strides in the music world from Kazakhstan these days. DJ Farleon from the North Kazakhstan region is also climbing the charts in Europe.

Armada Music was established by world’s renowned DJ Armin Van Buuren and his friends. Van Buuren won the best DJ of the Planet award in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012 according to DJ Mag.

“We signed a contract with the label for one song,” said Temirlan Dautkaliyev, Farleon’s project manager. “The Dutch will help in promoting the track. The contract stipulates the copy rights and the distribution of potential income. Sultan is a very talented musician, and I am pretty sure that he has a big future waiting for him.”

According to Dauletkaliyev, the track release is scheduled for March this year at the sub-label of Armada Music – Showland. The track will also be featured in one of the best Russian compilations – Swanky Tunes for Miami Music Week 2017.

As per earlier reports by, Karimov started cooperation with another Dutch, world-famous label – Spinning Records. This label recorded such famous artists as Avicii, Calvin Harris, Tiesto, DJ SNAKE, Martin Garrix, Kaskade, Martin Solveig and many others.

In October 2016, Karimov’s track “Fever,” was released under the label of the famous DJ Don Diablo and made it into the main playlist of electronic dance music in electroNOW at the streamline service Spotify.

The artist’s manager said the new contract has many advantages. Spotify pays from $6,000 to $8,000 for each million plays.

“The sale of singles is not the main source of income for singers in the west – they get most of the earnings from appearances, however, the fee depends on the artist’s popularity, and then the effect of the label is very important,” Dauletkaliyev explained.
Karimov was born and raised in the North Kazakhstan region. He liked the music from early childhood. His fortune was found for the first time in 2012, when he released his debut mini-album Millenium. As a result, he entered the top five releases of the week on the American version of the portal about electronic music, Beatport. After that a few of his tracks and remixes gained popularity in SoundCloud.

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Kazakhstan takes 42nd place in Heritage Foundation’s World 2017 Index of Economic Freedom

Mon, 2017-02-20 01:20

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakhstan took 42nd place on the 2017 Index of Economic Freedom published by The Heritage Foundation, Washington, DC-based think tank. Quantitative and qualitative factors such as property rights, government integrity, judicial effectiveness, government spending, tax burden, fiscal health, business, labour, monetary, trade, investment and financial freedom of the nation were carefully analysed.

The report indicates Kazakhstan’s economy has substantially benefited from increased openness and flexibility during the past decade and emphasises the country continues to maintain its ownership in key enterprises, particularly in the energy sector. The economy is mostly in private hands and more privatisation is being sought.

Beneficial structural reforms have included bank privatisation, implementing competitive flat tax rates and modernising the trade regime, according to the report.

Foundation experts advise organising deeper institutional reforms contributing to investment and increasing judiciary efficiency.

The regulatory framework has undergone a series of reforms and the private sector now faces fewer constraints, although there is still much room for institutional reform. Labour regulations are relatively flexible, facilitating the development of a more dynamic labour market. Kazakhstan is subsidising renewable energy with the goal of having 10 percent of its needs met by renewables by 2030, according to the report.

Experts also consider trade to be important to Kazakhstan’s economy. The total value of exports and imports equals 53 percent of the GDP and the average applied tariff rate is 3.3 percent. 

The Index of Economic Freedom, an annual guide, aims to help users track more than two decades of development in economic freedom and prosperity and promote the ideas in their homes, schools and communities. It covers 10 freedoms, from property rights to entrepreneurship, in 186 countries and the foundation website provides the opportunity to compare different nations.

The foundation considers economic freedom as the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labour and property, reporting that “in an economically free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume and invest in any way they please. In economically free societies, governments allow labour, capital and goods to move freely and refrain from coercion or constraint of liberty beyond the extent necessary to protect and maintain liberty itself.”

Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand took the first three places, respectively, and are considered to be nations with the highest economic freedom index. Kazakhstan belongs to the moderately free group of countries along with Japan (40th place), Poland (45th place), Belgium (49th place), Turkey (60th place) and Kuwait (61st place). It has significantly higher positions in comparison with countries such as Belarus (104th place), China (111st place), Russia (114th place) and Ukraine (166th place).

Experts highlight economic freedom provides more prosperity and its ideals are closely related to human development, healthier societies, cleaner environments, increasing per capita wealth, democracy and eliminating poverty.

The Heritage Foundation has provided the analysis in a clear and user-friendly style for more than 20 years. Offering new resources for users, the think tank gives opportunities for both research and education.


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EXPO 2017 to offer more than 3,000 cultural events

Mon, 2017-02-20 01:18

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Minister of Culture and Sport of Kazakhstan Arystanbek Mukhamediuly has announced that the cultural programme of EXPO 2017 in Astana will consist of more than 3,000 events.

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“Over three months from June 10 to Sept. 10, Kazakhstan and its capital will be the subjects of world attention. Several million participants and visitors are expected to visit Astana this summer. Thus, the Ministry of Culture and Sport, the akimat (mayor’s office) of Astana city and the Astana EXPO 2017 national company are working on the implementation of a comprehensive programme of more than 3,000 events,” said Mukhamediuly.

Twenty tents and 13 sectors of the expo will showcase the diversity of Kazakh national culture, art and sport. The programme will launch with the beginning of EXPO 2017 at the territory of Kazanat hippodrome, Mukhamediuly said.

Artists from well-known theatres from around the world will also perform for expo visitors, the minister reported. Italy’s La Scala theatre, sponsored by Italian oil and gas company Eni, will make a stop in Astana, as will Russia’s Mariinsky Theatre.

The Swiss company Rolex has become a sponsor of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, an international young vocalists’ competition, which will give a final performance at Astana Opera.

China’s famous Terracotta Army soldiers will be on display at the National Museum of Kazakhstan, Egypt will bring a collection of archaeological objects from ancient Egypt, the State Hermitage Museum and the Association of the Museums of France and others will also be creating exhibits, Mukhamediuly said.

Open-air performances of “Don Quixote,” “Aida” and the Kazakh classic “Kyz Zhibek” will be staged. Kazakhstan’s guests will be able to see Kazakh musicals including “Astana,” “Love Poem,” “Dostar Serti” and others, and a symphonic orchestra of 800 musicians from Novosibirsk, the Mikhailovsky Opera and local companies will perform the Eighth Symphony of Austrian composer Gustav Mahler.

The Eurasia Dance Festival, which will highlight global ballet stars, and a theatre festival dedicated to the 80th anniversary of local artist Asanali Ashimov, will be held during the expo, and a competition among singers of the Turkic world will be held in Barys Arena

Mukhamediuly also noted that a number of major sporting events will be held during the expo. “In terms of the sport programme, there will be five world championships, two Asian championships, the Kazakhstan President’s Football Cup, the President’s Challenger Cup of Tennis, the Silk Road 2017 international rally, the 55th anniversary of the International Convention of the World Boxing Council and an evening of professional boxing,” concluded the minister.

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National Bank to continue floating exchange rate, other inflation control measures in 2017

Mon, 2017-02-20 01:03

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – In 2017, the National Bank of Kazakhstan will continue its policy of a free floating exchange rate, its strengthening of the base rate on the real sector of economy and will retain principles of inflation targeting, Daniyar Akishev, chair of Kazakhstan’s National Bank, announced recently.

“Last year was a difficult one. It was the first year after high turbulence across the financial landscape. Therefore, the bank had a number of difficult tasks which needed resolving in a short period of time. First of all, reducing inflation. In our view, it is not simply a tribute to theory that a low inflation is an important macro economic index. It is indeed the main figure of social well-being of citizens that lies on the base of efficient activity of the National Bank and its monetary policy,” Akishev noted.

Stabilisation of inflation expectations is another important aspect, according to him. Polls conducted by specialised companies demonstrate a significant reduction of a share for those who expect high growth of prices. The chairman assured that the impact of transferring a change in the currency exchange rate into domestic prices has been overcome.

“Now we will have to work further within standard instruments of monetary policy,” the head of the bank said.

The third important aspect is the real impact of the base rate on the currency market. All rates in the currency market depend on the National Bank’s base rate.

“Liquidity granting or withdrawal by the National Bank automatically takes place in any amounts a financial market participant can be eligible for. This means that with the National ’Bank’s involvement in the market, price for tenge forms, which then transforms into the cost of credit resources for a real sector of the economy,” Akishev continued.   

“Basic areas of monetary policy for year 2017,” published in December of 2016, contain the basic priorities of the National Bank.

According to the head of the bank, maintaining the regime of a free floating exchange rate is the first priority while following principles of inflation targeting and keeping inflation at 6-8 percent corridor is the next priority.

Increasing the impact of the base rate via the credit channel on the real sector of economy is the bank’s third priority.   

Akishev stressed that the National Bank will continue operations on the currency market and most of the tasks will be fulfilled in case of favourable situations on external markets.

“The main focus will be on continuing information campaigns on openness, awareness-raising activities on all areas and comprehensive expanding published information and statistics. Various forms of information delivery depending on the audience, both for wide public and experts, investment banks and analysts will be elaborated,” he said.   


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Modernisation at Pavlodar oil chemistry refinery nears completion

Mon, 2017-02-20 00:57

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

PAVLODAR – Kazakhstan’s oil industry is set to mark a significant milestone during the first half of 2017 when a wide-scale modernisation of the Pavlodar Oil Chemistry Refinery is scheduled to be completed.

Photo credit: Valeriya Bugayeva

The modernisation of tools on renewed areas of the complex – a unit of high-octane number component of oil recovery and splitting its hydrotreated cut into light and heavy naphtha is near completion.

A sulphur production site is being renewed too. General construction, mainly concrete works are also near the finish line. It is possible that all of the projects will be completed ahead of schedule.

The modernisation will increase the facility’s oil refining capacity to 7.5 million tonnes per year, which is 24 percent higher than the current output.

The development of high-octane European standard gasolines will double in comparison to 2014. Diesel  oil will increase to 5,630 tonnes per year, or 34 percent higher than in 2014, while aircraft fuel will increase for more than two times.

In general, the output of light oil products will more than double compared to current production. The release of 80 RON low octane gasoline will be completely terminated. At that, the depth of oil refining will increase to nearly 90 percent.

Today, the Pavlodar Oil Chemistry Refinery supplies domestic market with up to 60 percent of total volume of light oil products. So Euro-4 and Euro-5 standard products, that are to be released in the spring, will be a substantial contribution to the country’s economy.

Furthermore, implementing the Modernisation of Pavlodar Oil Chemistry Refinery, LLP project will provide Kazakhstan’s domestic market with quality petroleum products compliant with the requirements of ecological K4 and K5 grades, reduce harmful effect on the environment due to introducing new technologies, enhance control automation and promote the rational use of natural resources.

In addition, petroleum products will have less sulphur, benzene and other unwanted components.

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Innovative liquefied natural gas station opens in Astana

Mon, 2017-02-20 00:51

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – An opening ceremony of up-to-date Turan liquefied natural gas station and its initial start-up of natural gas was held recently in Astana. Nearby Nazarbayev University became the first user of the gas station.

“Today is a remarkable day for Astana. The whole country is under the gasification process by order of the head of state. Today, a new gas supply based on an innovative LNG technology has been started. I hope that all our planned projects will be implemented and we will be able to solve all ecological problems and emissions reduction in Astana,” said Astana Akim (Mayor) Asset Issekeshev at the opening ceremony.

The first station of liquefied natural gas re-gasification with 25 gigacalorie per hour capacity was constructed and put into operation under the ASTANA LNG 2020 project by Global Gas Group. According to the founders, the station has the capacity to heat more than half a million square metres.

The opening ceremony was also attended by Vice-President for Innovation of Nazarbayev University Kanat Baigarin, Director of Global Gas Regasification Panaiot Saulidi as well as representatives of Russian Gazprom export and Gazprom Transgas Ekaterinburg.

The station is only the first stage of tubeless gasification of the north-eastern regions of Kazakhstan. It is planned to prepare Astana to connect to the main gas pipeline by 2021. The plan includes gasification of Pavlodar, Ust-Kamenogorsk and Kokshetau as well.

“More than 2 billion tenge (US$6.3 million) was invested in  the project. We plan to invest 20 billion tenge (US$63 million) more to significantly increase productivity of the gas supply in the next four years,” said Saulidi.

The starting point for the creation of this project was a speech by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev about general gasification, which was subsequently supported by a resolution and approved within the general scheme of Kazakhstan gasification.

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New app makes learning Kazakh language easier

Mon, 2017-02-20 00:45

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – A new app has been launched to make learning the Kazakh language, as well as facts about the country and its history, easier and fun.

Photo credit:

The app was developed by Intellection Studio headed by London School of Economics and Political Sciences graduate Bakytzhan Baizhikenov. The Qazaq App for iOS and Android is designed as a game and so far has 3,500 registered users and 5,000 downloads.

“It is like a journey of a batyr [an honorific term that means “hero”] along the cities of Kazakhstan that can be recognised by their famous sites. Every city presents itself as a chapter of a lesson. By passing through a chapter, batyr conquers Kazakhstan, city after city,” Baizhikenov explained in an interview with The Astana Times.

Each chapter has three subchapters, which have several lessons. Each of those lessons has words and phrases in the Kazakh language dedicated to a certain topic, such as basics, family, home, nature, pets, food and others.  

Apart from translation, every word comes with a picture that helps to visually remember a word, making the learning process easier and more interesting. A voice transcription (spelling) allows users to learn punctuation, according to Baizhikenov.  

After every lesson learnt, a user is awarded with baursaks (fried dough) as scores. Users can compete with each other by baursak scores.  

Interaction, a patriotic interface and the sounds of dombras playing after lessons are learnt are additional features that make this application different from others. Kazakh proverbs are available in the Russian language as well.

Bakytzhan Baizhikenov. Photo credit: Facebook

“The app is easy to use thanks to its intuitive and minimalistic design. You will get to know new words, listen to their spelling and back it all up with the help of a test that a user needs to do after every lesson,” Baizhikenov added.

A language selection became available within the app, following recent updates. Foreigners will also now be able to learn Kazakh with Qazaq App through the English.           

Qazaq App has users of different age range from all cities but mostly from Almaty.   
“We are planning to develop a complete online service for learning the Kazakh language. Qazaq App is a first step on a path to a great and important goal for us, which is increasing the amount of people who are fluent in the Kazakh language,” Baizhikenov mentioned in an earlier interview, according to the Facebook page of the Activ Mobile Phone Company.

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Bank mergers: expert opinion and outlook for 2017

Mon, 2017-02-20 00:29

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Since the fall, the country’s major banks have continued to announce their intentions to merge. The latest, regarding Tsesna Bank’s plan to buy out Bank CentreCredit shares, is a move that has spurred numerous controversies and discussions.

Rumours of a possible merger between Qazkom and Halyk Bank broke off in November and KazInvestBank lost its license a month later. In January, Qazkom representatives admitted they were engaged in talks about a possible merger with Halyk Bank, followed by the move by Tsesna Bank to buy out Bank CentreCredit’s shares. At the same time, President Nursultan Nazarbayev publicly encouraged the National Bank to use rigid means towards weaker banks in times of survival.

“Only four banks hold 80 percent of bank assets in the country. [This comes] in a world struggling with crisis – major corporations merge, such as Exxon and Mobil, Shell and British Gas, for instance. The shareholders put up their own money if they want to save the banks. There is no alternative way to save them. The economy doesn’t need them; hence, they do not have the right to live,” said the head of state, encouraging the National Bank to bold moves.

“When assessing the financial stability of banks, one of the most important indicators is the debt to equity ratio (financial leverage D/E),” economist Timur Abilkasymov told “The higher the ratio, the lower the financial stability. A very low index indicates a bank’s slow business activity.”

He added as of Jan. 1, the following banks had high financial leverage: ATF Bank (16), Bank CentreCredit (12.8), Tsesna Bank (11.6), RBK (11.4), Qazaq Banki (10.5), Sberbank (10.2), the Bank of Astana (10.2), AziyaKredit Bank (10) and VTB Kazakhstan (9.8).

Abilkasymov believes that to improve the stability of the financial data, banks must increase equity and reduce the share of loans overdue more than 90 days to below 10 percent. According to the National Bank of Kazakhstan, VTB Kazakhstan has 16.1 percent of non-performing assets, ATF Bank (12.1), Sberbank (9.2), Bank CentreCredit (8.9), Kaspi Bank (8.7), Halyk Bank (8.6), AziyaKredit Bank (8.3), Eurasian Bank (7.9), ForteBank (7.5), Qazkom (6.3), Tsesna Bank (4.2), RBK (4.2), Bank of Astana (4.03) and Qazaq Banki (2.8). In general, for the year the country’s banks have improved the performance of the share of loans overdue more than 90 days.

Abilkasymov believes the mergers are a necessity for Kazakhstan’s banks and for economic stability.

Astana Best Consulting Group economist Arman Baiganov feels the recent situation with the national currency, namely the devaluation and the free-floating policy, has left many banks in a difficult situation.

Smaller banks are now coerced into merging, he added, as they find it difficult to vie with larger local competitors, not to mention Russian banks, which are in better shape thanks to the country’s slightly improved economic situation.

Tsesna Capital Chairperson of the Board Samat Balkenov thinks these mergers might leave foreign banks in troubled positions, as their market share would be significantly less and the competition for each customer will be tougher.

“Based on the statistics from the National Bank, as of Jan. 1 there are six second-tier banks out of 33 in total with the share of loans and payments overdue more than 15 percent – people need to pay attention to them in the first place. In this case, of the six banks four have foreign participation – Zaman-Bank (44.9 percent), National Bank of Pakistan in Kazakhstan (33.1 percent), VTB Bank Kazakhstan (22.7 percent) and Sberbank (17.9 percent),” he said.

BRB Invest Director Galim Khusainov earlier told the media that at the present time, Kazakhstan simply doesn’t have the market for 30 banks.


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Ministry of Justice and World Bank to strengthen forensic services

Mon, 2017-02-20 00:24

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – A project to strengthen forensic capacity was launched in October by the Ministry of Justice and the World Bank. Introduced at an international convention in December, the project will operate for two years and has already begun to identify a number of areas for improvement.

Leader of Strengthening Forensic Capacity project Yury Bikbaev

“We are concentrating on key performance indicators at the lab level, legislature and regulation at the systemic level and enhancing skills at the individual expert level,” said project leader Yury Bikbayev in a Feb. 16 interview.

“Tying it all together and proposing a new model in just two years may be challenging, but we are rather excited by this tremendous opportunity,” he added.

Forensic science has been a subject of many debates in the recent past, especially after the United States began conducting a number of groundbreaking studies in 2009. Much debate centred on the scientific aspects themselves, often questioning the validity of conclusions and documenting how it affected the lives of people throughout the justice system. The need for reform and more systemic approaches were evident, but some components were still missing to facilitate cardinal change.

Kazakh forensic services have recently undergone significant change. Minister of Justice Marat Beketayev emphasised further development of the nation’s justice system requires improving many different institutions, including forensic expertise.

The minister added the transition of forensic medicine from the purview of the Ministry of Healthcare to the Ministry of Justice was completed in July, placing forensic expertise run by the state under one roof. The Centre of Forensic Expertise and Centre of Forensic Medicine are currently being merged to create one entity.

“I had discussions with many international experts and practitioners in search of best practices, latest strategies and lessons learned. A number of prominent experts praised the logic of combining the two centres to seek better governance and efficiency,” said Bikbayev.

While improved governance and more efficient operations systems and procedures are the project’s key priorities, addressing forensic expertise across its select types and at the level of individual experts is a special task in itself.

“We are planning to train more than 200 forensic experts overseas,” said Saule Zhakselekova, the training component’s deputy project leader and coordinator. “It will be a significant undertaking which, according to the overall agreement, will require involvement of project partners such as PricewaterhouseCoopers to assist with planning and logistics and we are paying special attention to identifying forensic expertise globally to suit the needs and demands of Kazakhstan.”

Project partners King’s College London, a leading British university which has been conducting forensic research since the 1970s, and Key Forensic Services, a top private forensic provider in the UK, are expected to host groups of Kazakh experts.

KAZGUU University, the lead consultant to the Ministry of Justice on the project, is also supported by Astana Garant Consulting to assist with key performance indicators and QPA Strategies for international expertise.    

The project pays particular attention to supporting further development of private sector providers of forensic expertise. One option is to create a chamber of private forensic experts to foster growth.

“British and American experiences are of course of interest and relevance, with New Zealand’s approach worth special attention,” said Bikbayev. “But we have to be very careful in suggesting something which is truly most suitable to Kazakhstan given its unique conditions and dynamics. The project aims to achieve just that.”                     

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Kazakh government services app receives award at World Government Summit

Fri, 2017-02-17 08:42

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakhstan’s mobile application was named the best “one stop shop app” in the first World GovTechioneers competition at the February 12-14 World Government Summit (WGS) in Dubai.

The Android, iOS and Windows phone app was launched in late 2014 and offers86 e-services, including a “Mobile Personal Cabinet” where a citizen can view his/her personal data from national databases. It also offers a map of government services, such as notaries and kindergartens, and allows users to make suggestions to improve public services. The app had more than 1.6 million users at the end of 2016.

The World GovTechioneers competition was launched in December 2016 to encourage global government entities to enhance their services, implement smart government initiatives and develop partnerships to identify innovative solutions to challenges facing the world. The contest received thousands of nominations since its launch.

The competition includes three main categories: Blockchain Virtual GovHack, Best m-Government Service, and Best Emerging Technologies in Government. It highlights leading projects in the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence, drones, statistical data, nanotechnology, autonomous cars, block chain transactions, virtual reality, and 3-D printing.

The winners of the World GovTechioneers Race, selected by an impartial judging panel, were awarded on the third day of the WGS, Feb. 14.

Kazakh Minister of Information and Communications Dauren Abayev, who headed the country’s delegation to the summit, accepted the award presented by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Emir of Dubai.

“This is a deserved award for our team of highly skilled professionals, who put a lot of effort into this project. It’s also an incentive to develop the industry,” Abayev said.

Also at the summit, Abayev discussed Kazakhstan’s experience in the field of digitilisation and the “Digital Kazakhstan” programme with the Minister of Economy of the UAE Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri. The sides also discussed the hub Astana plans to create within the Smart City project and agreed to cooperate in the technology sector to develop digital transformation.

Abayev also discussed cooperation and progress in modernising public services, procedures simplification and public services management with UAE Minister of State for Happiness Ohoud Al Roumi.

The WGS 2017 attracted more than 4,000 people from 139 countries and featured 150 speakers over 114 sessions.

The attendees included leading figures from the public and private sectors globally, ministers, decision makers, chief executive officers, innovators, officials, entrepreneurs, academics and university students.

President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim, Prime Minister of Bhutan Tshering Tobgay and UAE Minister of State for Tolerance Lubna Khalid Al Qasimi delivered keynote speeches at the event. The summit attendees were Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Issues like the end of globalisation, how technology is breaking borders, treating extremism and the source of nuclear energy were key topics discussed during the summit. Participants of the three-day event shared best practices in government agencies’ work and talked about their vision of the future government.

The WGS included participation of seven world and international organisations who are also strategic partners of the summit, including the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, UNESCO, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the World Economic Forum.

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Second round of Syrian talks in Astana adopt mechanism to monitor ceasefire

Fri, 2017-02-17 02:47

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Another two days of talks on strengthening the ceasefire regime in the nearly six-year-old Syrian conflict ended Feb. 16 in Astana with the adoption of a document to formalise monitoring of the ceasefire.

The document will guide the activities of a joint operational group to be formed by Russia, Turkey and Iran that was agreed to be set up during the earlier meeting in January in Astana. The document is also meant to guide confidence-building measures among the opposing sides.

Photo credit:

The parties also agreed during the talks to continue discussions of a mechanism to exchange corpes and prisoners, including women and children, said Russian Foreign Ministry Special Envoy for the Mideast Settlement and Director of the Department of the Middle East and North Africa Sergei Vershinin during a Moscow-Damascus-Astana teleconference following the talks.

The meetings were meant to also create a positive momentum in support of Feb. 23 peace talks in Geneva.

In addition to representatives of the trilateral monitoring group, the Feb. 15-16 meetings were attended bythe Syrian Arab Republic’s delegation headed by Syria’s Permanent Representative to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari and the Syrian armed opposition delegation representing nine groups and being headed by the political leader of Jaish al-Islam Mohammad Alloush. Representatives of the United States, Jordan and the UN attended the talks as observers.

Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Akylbek Kamaldinov opened the talks’ plenary session expressing Astana’s hopes that the meetings on Syria would make a tangible contribution to the UN-led Geneva process and ultimately result in a comprehensive peace agreement on Syria.

“Kazakhstan, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2017-2018, will make every effort to address issues of regional and global security. In this regard, we are prepared to further contribute to the process of Syrian settlement,” Kamaldinov said.

He highlighted that all the meetings in Astana were held in a constructive manner, and showed the importance of the Astana platform created with the support of President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

In a press briefing following the end of talks, Al-Jaafari emphasised that Damascus is committed to taking all steps to comply with the ceasefire regime in order to stop the bloodshed.

He said Turkey “cannot be fanning the flames and extinguishing them at the same time.” Al-Jaafari accused Turkey of continuing to facilitate the entry of “tens of thousands of mercenaries” to Syria and said the talks ended without a final statement because of the late arrival of the Turkish delegation and the Syrian opposition.

Alloush, in his turn, said all opposition groups represented at the talks would as well take measures to support the shaky truce.

Despite the objections of the Syrian armed opposition concerning Iran’s participation, the decision to establish the joint Russia-Turkey-Iran group was approved.

“We also discussed mechanisms to establish control over the ceasefire regime. Russia mentioned a brief document in response to the document that we presented,” Alloush said at a press conference.

The head of the Syrian armed opposition emphasised his delegation’s commitment to acting in the interests of the people of Syria, who have suffered a lot over the six years of the conflict.

Head of the Russian delegation and Representative of the Russian President on Syrian settlement Alexander Lavrentiev noted that “the Astana platform is not confined to military matters on Syria, the parties might as well engage more closely with political issues.”

He also stated that there were two more documents that hadn’t been signed in Astana. One of them sets the procedures of identifying and preventing violations and provides for sanctions against violators of the truce. The other deals with areas that are under the control of moderate Syrian armed opposition groups that have signed the Dec. 29 ceasefire agreement. Lavrentiev said, both documents might be adopted within less than a month.

The Feb. 15-16 talks followed two previous rounds of Syria negotiations in Astana. The first meetings were Jan. 23-24 and were the first to include both the Syrian government and the Syrian armed opposition. Representatives from Russia, Iran and Turkey also attended as well as representatives of the UN and the United States who attended as observers. The trilateral group, as well as observers from Jordan and the United Nations, met again Feb. 6 to discuss mechanisms to monitor the ceasefire.

The Russian delegation’s Vershinin said the Astana meeting was “another important step” towards bringing the ened of the conflict closer.

Al-Jaafari also said that the Geneva meeting “needs to take into account the Astana-1 and Astana-2 results and resolutions so that they become a basis for the work in the upcoming meeting.”

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Spanish ambassador praises relationship on 25th anniversary of bilateral ties

Fri, 2017-02-17 01:52

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Spanish Ambassador to Kazakhstan Pedro Jose Sanz Serrano praised the relationship between Kazakhstan and Spain Feb. 11 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of bilateral relations.

“We have had many visits and both embassies, Kazakhstan’s in Madrid and Spain’s in Astana, have been always active, having good relations with authorities,” said the ambassador. “In 2009, our states signed a strategic relationship document, which is a kind of privilege, because we don’t have such documents signed with all countries. I could name it a milestone in the bilateral relationship. In 2010, Spain supported Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in the OSCE.”

Pedro Jose Sanz Serrano

He also addressed ongoing efforts to increase bilateral trade.

“In 1996, total trade turnover between Spain and Kazakhstan amounted to eight million euros. We reached the peak in 2013 with 297 million euros worth of Spanish exports to Kazakhstan and 1.6 billion euros in Kazakh exports to Spain. Later, we didn’t reach such numbers. In 2015, we had almost 1.2 billion euros in trade turnover from both sides. Last year, the number decreased even more, reaching only 682 million. The decrease is probably connected with currency devaluation,” he said.

“There are many different sectors in which our countries cooperate. Spain imports different raw materials, including oil and metals from Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan imports clothes, construction materials, machinery and spare parts for the machinery. For example, Talgo railroad cars and Airbus planes,” the ambassador said.

“Of course, this isn’t enough. Much more should be done. I think that we should have more business. For instance, we could have more Spanish goods represented in local supermarkets,” he added.

The ambassador also emphasised that participation in EXPO 2017 is considered a top priority for him this year. He said, “We aspire to have a great pavilion there, much visited to promote our technologies and cultural wealth among people of Kazakhstan,” he said. “This year, Spain’s participation in the Expo will become one of the milestones of our relationship.”

The Spanish ambassador also noted that Madrid has supported Kazakhstan’s membership on the UN Security Council from the beginning. He also said bilateral cultural exchange is an important part of the relationship.

“Cultural exchange between the states is another of our priorities. We try to promote that with our possibilities, supporting the new Romance Studies Centre in Al Farabi [Kazakh National] University in Almaty. I found that really many people in Kazakhstan want to study Spanish. Especially, young people. The embassy is cooperating with Abylai Khan [Kazakh University of International Relations and World Languages] and Eurasian National University as well,” said the ambassador.

He added that he believes the Spanish and Kazakh people have much in common.

“You like music as Spanish people do. You like parties and we do. We are very far away. That is true.  But only geographically. Not in the heart. There are many things that are similar in our countries,” he discussed.

“It is only my personal feeling, but I know that our people both like communicating with family members. I mean getting together, have lunches and dinners. The sense of family is very similar in our both countries,” he said.

The Spanish embassy in Kazakhstan annually celebrates the National Day of Spain, a holyday shared with the Spanish speaking countries in America, on Oct. 12.

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