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Dramatic ballet staged by renowned British choreographer to open at Astana Opera

Sat, 2017-04-01 05:17

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

ASTANA – “Manon,” a dramatic ballet from the repertoire of London’s Royal Opera House, will open April 28-29 at the capital’s opera house. The presentation by the Astana Opera Ballet Company will be staged with the design of the late renowned British choreographer Sir Kenneth MacMillan and to the music of Jules Massenet.

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“The choreographic drama genre is broadly developed in the U.K.’s ballet art and notably by Kenneth MacMillan. Most likely the rich traditions of dramatic theatre, originated there as far back as Shakespearian times, provided considerable influence,” said People’s Artist of Russia and Astana Opera Ballet Company Artistic Director Altynai Asylmuratova, reported the theatre’s press office.

“A British ballet has a rather different acting skills technique. It is vivid but even more so reserved, somewhat of a chamber style of performance. Precision is figured out in advance down to a tiniest detail, a fleet glance and a tiniest gesture. Each piece creates an incredible atmosphere, involving the audience into onstage action. When ideas and challenges set by a choreographer are pristinely preserved, such reverential attitude to their heritage commands solid respect,” he added.

The ballet tells the tragic love story of Manon Lescaut and the Chevalier des Grieux, with the heroine facing a difficult choice between wealth and love. The pas de deux of the main characters is the dramatic centre of the narrative.

Sad events unfold amidst the crowd scenes, with each character having his or her own carefully considered roles. As a result, the ballet is replete with continuous action. Realistic scenery and costumes designed by Nicholas Georgiadis contribute to the performance’s dramatic vividness, according to the press release.

The 20th century choreographic masterpiece is based on “L’Histoire du Chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut,” the 1731 novel by French author Abbé Prévost. It was staged to music from Massenet’s various works, including excerpts from 13 operas, two oratorios, orchestral works, a variety of songs and piano pieces. Orchestrating and adaptation were presented by Martin Yates.

MacMillan, the Royal Ballet’s artistic director and principal choreographer from 1970-1992, had a significant impact on the world’s ballet art. His beautiful and deeply choreographed drama became part of London’s opera house and one of the most highly sought plays among repertoire classics.

His wife, Lady Deborah MacMillan, entrusted renowned ballet masters Karl Burnett and Patricia Ruanne to stage the production in Kazakhstan. Burnett visited the capital a year ago to become acquainted with the theatre company and skill level and was impressed with the prowess of the young artists.

“I constantly travel the world and see plenty of different dancers. Many opportunities lie in wait for Kazakhstan’s artists today. Learning a new and sophisticated repertoire is a simultaneously exciting and challenging task; an opportunity for dancers to grow. We have recently begun working on the production with the troupe and soloists and I am very excited,” he said.

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Kazakh government to allocate $190 million for spring field, harvesting operations

Sat, 2017-04-01 05:13

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

ASTANA – The Kazakh government will provide a 60 billion tenge (US$190.4 million) loan from the national budget to finance spring field work this year. The loan is enough to fund up to three million hectares of sown areas.

Photo credit: Mariya Gordeyeva

The plan includes financing 1,500 agricultural and industrial company projects, said First Vice Minister of Agriculture Kairat Aituganov. He noted agricultural crops will be located on almost 22 million hectares, 311,000 hectares more than 2016, with spring sowing occupying 18.5 million hectares.

Aituganov added the new state programme specifies saturating the domestic market with domestic products to increase loading processing and feed mills and strengthen the livestock feed base. All measures are aimed at diversifying the acreage. Areas for grain crops (barley, oats, maize, peas and chickpeas) are expanding by 206,000 hectares, cereals (32,000), oilseeds (60,000), fodder crops (593,000) and sugar beets (7,000).

Water-consuming crops are being cut and others reduced, such as rice (almost 2,000 fewer hectares), cotton (4,600) and wheat (338,000), said Aituganov. In general, more than 15 million hectares will be used for grain, including about 12 million for wheat.

Aituganov emphasised funds will be allocated based on the priority of the crops; oilseeds and fodder crops are financed as a matter of priority. Special attention will also be paid this year to seed quality, as the mechanism of supporting seed production has been improved under state programmes. Thus, beginning this year, subsidies for original and elite seeds are being resumed and first reproduction seeds will be subsidised in terms of priority crops and without minimum standards. In addition, subsidising will continue for elite fruit and berry seedlings, grapes and first-generation hybrids.

More than 2.4 million tonnes of seeds were used for the 2017 harvest, said Aituganov. This year, 13 billion tenge (US$41.3 million) was allocated to subsidise mineral fertilisers, 2 billion tenge (US$6.4 million) more than last year.

The spring work will require 375,000 tonnes of diesel fuel, 148,000 tonnes of which were used in March, he added. The average price of diesel for agricultural producers is about 120 tenge (US$.38) per litre, 10 tenge (US$.03) less than market price.

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New transport corridor opens up Kazakhstan, China transit capacities

Sat, 2017-04-01 05:09

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

ASTANA – Closer integration of Kazakh and Uzbek transport infrastructure will be an important contribution to forming the Silk Road Economic Belt transport corridor, said Chinese Ambassador to Kazakhstan Zhang Hanhui at a March 25 meeting.

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Launching a route to Uzbekistan through Kazakhstan offers a new perspective following the agreements between Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

“We will work to use the potential of the route between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The revival of the infrastructure system between the two countries is an important result of the visit of the Uzbek leader to Astana. We believe that this is good news for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Eurasia as a whole. A unified transport connection constructed between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan will make an important contribution to the development of the economic belt of the Silk Road and to the revival of the Great Silk Road,” said Zhang.

Negotiations on constructing a railway line from western China through Kashgar in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and further through Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan have been conducted during the past 20 years, reported

“The most important thing is the project’s feasibility study and where to get financing. The project costs a colossal amount of $7 billion. If the parties want the Chinese government or Chinese banks to allocate money, how will they guarantee payback and who will pay out the loans? In addition, this is a very complex area running through the mountain ranges,” said Zhang.

According to last year’s statistics, 584 freight trains departing from 17 Chinese cities passed through Kazakhstan to European countries.

“The rail transportation is much cheaper than air transportation and much faster than shipping. Goods from China to Europe are delivered in a month and a half by sea. The transportation takes two weeks or 10 days through Kazakhstan along the Silk Road. Kazakhstan significantly improved its services. The security of transported goods is guaranteed and the terms for customs are seriously shortened. You can register and skip the train every half hour. The possibility of loading empty trains in Europe for return transportation was also found,” he said.

Zhang noted the importance of constructing the Western Europe – Western China highway, which is expected to extend to the Lianyungang sea port.

“There’s also an issue on docking standards between our countries in the field of road transport, as there are different standards for cars, trucks, driver’s licenses and others. A road to Lianyungang sea port is expected to open by 2020 as part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) agreement. There’s Kazakhstan’s sea terminal and now we need to think about how to open this route step-by-step,” he said.

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Prosecutor General’s Office proposes new ways to combat theft

Sat, 2017-04-01 05:04

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

ASTANA – Two million thefts were committed in Kazakhstan in a span of 25 years, of which about 1.5 million remain unsolved, said Kussain Igembayev, head of the Prosecutor General’s Office second department, during the March 27 meeting of the coordinating council on ensuring the rule of law, law and order and combating crime and theft, reported

“For us, the feeling of security is the safety of the place where we live. How do thieves usually work? They look at how balconies are arranged, if there are double-glazed windows, if there is video surveillance, security or if the neighbours are on alert. Then, they get through the common entrance and use something to keep the door unlocked. In a couple of days, they determine the target – an apartment which was left unattended; they knock out the door, pull out the windows or pick the lock. We propose expanding the network of CCTV cameras. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, only 3 percent of multi-storey houses are equipped with such cameras. They are needed in the entrances to scare away thieves and help detain them,” said Igembayev.

More than 44,000 burglaries were committed last year alone and during the past five years, damage from thefts exceeded 70 billion tenge (US$223 million), he added. As a result, the Prosecutor General’s Office is encouraging installing video surveillance in residential buildings and developing concierge services.

Kazakhtelecom proposes installing cameras at the expense of the apartment owners as part of the Cloud Observation project. For a small monthly fee, people will be able to look after their homes from their smartphones and view archived recordings through their personal offices.

“The public-private partnership is also important. There is a need to interest businesses with favourable conditions. In Almaty, in the Nurtas micro-district, one of the video surveillance companies equipped 18 high-rise buildings with cameras. There have been no thefts reported in the past six months from that neighbourhood. Security costs are only 150 tenge (US$.50) per month. It is beneficial for both the tenants and entrepreneurs. To avoid cameras going idle, one can implement the mediator system. When one detects any offense, the owner of the video surveillance can pay part of the collected fine. Annually, fines amount over 40 billion tenge (US$127 million). The law ‘On the participation of citizens in the maintenance of public order’ provides for such a mechanism, but only for citizens. There is a need to include companies, too, or we could write this mechanism in a new legal act in the order of using video surveillance systems,” said Igembayev.

He also proposed developing effective forms of protection and promised, if possible, to introduce the work of concierge services in residential buildings in the capital.

“We studied the neighbour supervision programme, which is effective in the U.S. and in several other countries in Europe. In the North Kazakhstan region, it is already working. Neighbours, by agreement, monitor their territory and ensure the safety of their residences; these houses have signboards and any violation is reported to the local police. It is working. All this costs the local budget no more than 20 million tenge (US$63,770). We will develop this programme everywhere with the help of regional akimats (administrations). Concierge services are provided for ‘business class’ accommodations – of course, there are practically no thefts. If possible, we will use such services where we can,” he said.

Attorney General Zhakip Assanov, who also was present, suggested using employment programmes. He also noted the tenants themselves will agree to pay part of the sum for the concierge work. The main thing, in his opinion, is “to explain the necessity to the citizens in plain language.”

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Kazakhstan’s agricultural sector needs more investments

Sat, 2017-04-01 00:35

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

ASTANA – The Kazakh economy was backed by the agricultural sector in 2016, however, the level of investment remains low, rising just 3.3 percent of the total investment volume, reported

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“Despite a sharp increase in 2016, agriculture is still experiencing a deficit of investment support compared to other sectors of the economy. Over the past year, the volume of investment in fixed assets of agricultural enterprises increased 51 percent to 253 billion tenge (US$803.53 million),” according to the report.

Earlier this year, 19.4 billion tenge (US$61.61 million) was attracted to modernise farmers’ production assets, 14 percent more compared to the previous year. The low share of investment flow in agriculture, however, reflects investors’ attitudes towards the industry with higher risk assessment of financing the agricultural sector. Conversely, it also shows the possibilities of the producers themselves, who cannot dramatically increase investment in renewing their assets.

The agrarian sector should become the new driver of the national economy, according to the plan to implement the so called “Modernisation 3.0.” To achieve this goal, the government, mayors and governors should undertake concrete activities, experts believe.

“There is a need to review the principles of subsidies and gradually switch to product insurance, create all the necessary conditions to consolidate more than 500,000 households and small farmers in cooperatives within five years and to increase the level of product processing. Along with that, an effective system of storage, transportation and sale of goods needs to be created. Further, there is also a necessity to boost the level of labour productivity and reduce production costs and to increase the efficiency of land use and expand the area of irrigated land by 40 percent to 2 million hectares within five years, as well as to increase the investment volume in agricultural research that will be used in production,” noted the report.

The agricultural sector shows a good growth level in supporting a weakening economy amid the crisis period. Last year, gross output of products and services in the industry increased 5.5 percent compared to the volume in 2015. In particular, crop production grew 7.8 percent and livestock rose 2.7 percent.

Meanwhile, investment volume in fixed enterprise capital engaged in cultivating seasonal and perennial crops is greater than in livestock – 69 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

Last year, however, agricultural producers began actively attracting bank and other loans to finance their farms. The volume of investment loans increased two times by 30 billion tenge (US$95.28 million.)


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Entrepreneurial programme to fund more than 14,000 projects

Sat, 2017-04-01 00:31

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

ASTANA – Kazakh Minister of National Economy Timur Suleimenov spoke about new measures of government support for entrepreneurs and steps to increase business activity at the March 27 governmental hour in the Mazhilis. Thousands of businesses will receive funding and collateral.

“The programme for the development of productive employment and mass entrepreneurship creates the conditions for the development of entrepreneurial potential and the opening and running of business, especially in the countryside. To stimulate the development of mass entrepreneurship, the volume of microcrediting has been expanded and the possibility of guaranteeing collateral by the state for potential entrepreneurs is presented in case of insufficient collateral. These measures are aimed at solving problems related to lack of funding and insufficiency of collateral in villages,” he said at the meeting, adding practical implementation of this programme will begin April 1.

The country lists 8.9 million people in its economically-active population, including 6.3 million employees and 2.1 million self-employed, according to the ministry. Around 441,000 are unemployed. The new programme is designed to increase the business community, as well as the number of employed people and development of rural areas.

Within the microcredit programme, entrepreneurs can get up to 8,000 monthly calculation indicators (MCI), or18 million tenge ($57,000) for a term of up to seven years with a final interest rate of no more than 6 percent. Ten billion tenge (US$31.75 million) in cities and 27 billion tenge ($85.7 million) in rural areas will be allocated annually within the programme.

More than 14,500 projects (2,500 in cities, 12,000 in rural areas) will be eligible to receive financing and an excess of 1,220 projects (720 in rural areas, 500 in cities) will be able to get missing collateral. At the same time, entrepreneurial start-up projects will compose at least 20 percent of the total number of recipients and be considered a priority, said Suleimenov.

Loans in the cities will be issued through the Damu Fund, while the operator in rural areas and small towns is Agrarian Credit Corporation.

Using such a mechanism envisions securing the responsibility of each operator for achieving its results within the programme, noted Suleimenov. At the same time, the organisations do not pursue commercial goals, but receive reimbursement for operating costs and risk premiums.

“For the first time, micro crediting of entrepreneurial activity is ensured by state guarantees, which is a solution to the problem of collateral for the unemployed and unproductively employed population. Guarantees will be provided in the amount of up to 50 percent of the cost of microcredits for existing entrepreneurs and up to 85 percent for start-ups. Guarantors from the state in the cities are Damu Fund and in the countryside KazAgroGarant,” he said, according to Kazinform.

In case of default, the main part of the risk for paying a guarantee is assigned to the operators. The state pays no more than 30 percent of the cost of the guarantee. According to Suleimenov, this should stimulate operators to qualitatively analyse the incoming applications and will minimise the support to inefficient projects. Guarantees for business are provided free of charge.

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EBRD appoints new director for Kazakhstan

Fri, 2017-03-31 06:47

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

ASTANA – The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) recently appointed Agris Preimanis its new Director for Kazakhstan, one of the bank’s largest states of operations where it has invested more than $8 billion. The Oxford-trained expert has lived and worked in Almaty since 2014.

“This is a critical period for Kazakhstan as the country aims to improve competitiveness and to modernise, adjusting to new global economic realities. I am excited to take up the role of director for Kazakhstan at this time and will work to ensure that the EBRD remains one of the key investors in the country and a key partner for Kazakhstan in its reform efforts. The non-extractive sectors in the country will be key for the EBRD, as well as working towards improved connectedness and a greener, more sustainable energy sector,” said Preimanis, according to the press service of the bank.

EBRD First Vice President Phil Bennett announced the decision March 30 during his visit to Almaty. Agris Preimanis is a Latvian citizen, a DPhil in financial economics and has worked with the EBRD since 2010. He had served as Regional Lead Economist in the Central Asian region since 2014.

Preimanis developed close links with EBRD partners in Kazakhstan in government and business supporting policy engagements and investment in the country. He is an acting member of the Operating Committee and a co-chair of the Innovative-Technological and Economic Development Working Group of the Foreign Investors Council of Kazakhstan.

Preimanis has been working with the Kazakh government and private Kazakh companies to strengthen the competitiveness of the economy. He also supports creating better connectivity and developing a solid banking sector and Kazakh national programme.

Preimanis replaces Janet Heckman, who was promoted to EBRD Managing Director for Southern and Eastern Mediterranean in January and moves to Cairo now.

The EBRD has been investing at record levels in Kazakhstan under an innovative Enhanced Partnership Framework Arrangement with the Kazakh government since 2014. The bank has invested more than $8 billion focusing on diversification of the state’s economy and promoting the non-oil and non-gas sectors of Kazakhstan. The EBRD Advice for Small Business programme is assistant thousands of small and medium-sized businesses in all regions of the country.




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Kazakhstan welcomes wide cooperation with France, Central Asian neighbours, FM says

Fri, 2017-03-31 06:41

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

ASTANA – Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov attended a joint meeting March 28-29 of the foreign ministers of France, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan devoted to the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the French Republic and the countries of Central Asia.

During his working visit, he also held separate meetings with Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development of France Jean-Marc Ayrault, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) Director General Irina Bokova and Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Ángel Gurría.

Speaking at the joint meeting with Ayrault and his regional counterparts, Abdrakhmanov said Central Asia has become one of the dynamically developing regions of the world.

“We are aiming at making Kazakhstan a pole of economic growth and stability in the region and are open to the widest cooperation with our French partners and our neighbours in the region,” he said.

He stressed that Kazakhstan is committed to the principles of equality and mutually beneficial cooperation in its relations with Central Asian states.

“We are pleased with recent positive trends in the region’s development. This proves once again that there are no unsolvable problems in the relations between Central Asian countries,” Abdrakhmanov highlighted.

He expressed confidence that a model of a regional zone of peace, security, cooperation and development can be formed and tested in Central Asia, combining the interests of all the countries of the region. In this regard, he noted the importance of France’s leading role in addressing global issues related to climate change, water, food, energy and nuclear security, reaching sustainable development goals, combatting terrorism and protecting cultural heritage.

Abdrakhmanov reaffirmed the importance of the European Union-Central Asia High-level Dialogue on Politics and Security. He also advocated the creation of a new platform for cooperation between Central Asia and the EU called “Economic development, investment, employment, private sector development.” Currently there are three such platforms focusing on security, education and the environment.

At a bilateral meeting with Ayrault, the sides summed up the results of the 25-year comprehensive cooperation between Kazakhstan and France and outlined concrete steps to further promote Kazakh-French relations.

According to the Kazakh foreign ministry, the ministers exchanged views on international issues, including the situation in Afghanistan, the settlement of the Syrian conflict and the role of the Astana Process in that, as well as threats and challenges of international terrorism and violent extremism.

Abdrakhmanov and Ayrault further noted the importance of France’s participation in the upcoming EXPO 2017 in Astana. Paris intends to demonstrate its latest green technologies at the exhibition and organise about 50 cultural events.

At a meeting with Bokova, Abdrakhmanov praised the joint work with UNESCO on implementing the initiatives of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev that were voiced during the 38th session of UNESCO General Conference in November 2015. He also noted that, taking into account the potential of Almaty city as a regional hub for international organisations, including UN agencies, Kazakhstan is ready to provide full support to the establishment of the International Centre for Rapprochement of Cultures under UNESCO auspices in Almaty.

The sides reaffirmed the high level of partnership and thoroughly discussed the joint activities on including various cultural and natural heritage sites in the UNESCO international registries. Bokova also informed about her intention to visit Kazakhstan in September.

Also on March 29, Abdrakhmanov and Gurría discussed improving the institutional environment and economic growth in Kazakhstan using the best practices of OECD countries. The sides also dwelled upon extending the country programme until 2018, improving Kazakhstan’s status in OECD committees and Kazakhstan’s pilot projects for Afghanistan within the framework of Kazakhstan’s official development assistance system.

The head of the OECD said the members of the organisation are impressed by the progress Kazakhstan has made in implementing OECD recommendations. He thanked President Nazarbayev for the fact that OECD experience and standards are taken into account in the formation of national economic policy. Gurría presented several reports and studies to Abdrakhmanov with recommendations to further promote economic reforms in the country.

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Astana International Financial Centre joins Vantage Financial Centres

Thu, 2017-03-30 01:49

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

ASTANA – Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) has partnered with Vantage Financial Centres (VFC), an exclusive association of international financial centres. The partnership will grant AIFC the privileges of the association and is to boost its profile internationally.

The association includes such well-known international financial centres as Tokyo, Toronto, Shanghai, Beijing and Abu Dhabi. Members of the VFC receive consulting support and assessments of their activities from other members of the association.

Also, all the centres can take an active part in international high level events which are used for the exchange of experience and expert opinions on increasing the competitiveness of financial centres.

Joining the association is a timely step towards the establishment and development of the Kazakh centre, the press service of the AIFC reports.

Members of the VFC have created Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI) since 2007, which is based on more than 29,000 evaluations of financial centres from the online questionnaire. The index also takes into account more than 100 indicators of organisations, such as the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and reflects the competitiveness of financial centres.

The ranking examines five key areas: business environment, infrastructure factors, financial sector development, reputation and general factors, and human capital.

The AIFC aims to create favourable conditions for investment and finance and to develop the securities market, ensuring its integration with international capital markets. The AIFC also intends to develop insurance, banking and Islamic finance markets in Kazakhstan. The centre provides a special legal regime based on the principles of English law, independent financial regulation in accordance with international standards, tax preferences for a period of 50 years, simplified visa and labour conditions and English as an official language in the territory of the AIFC.

The AIFC seeks to become a financial hub for the Central Asian region, member states of the EAEU, the Caucasus, Western China, the Middle East, Mongolia and Europe. It is planned that the centre will be located within EXPO 2017 and supported by modern infrastructure and cutting-edge technologies.

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Astana Opera to host first Astana Opera Ball with 100 dancing pairs

Thu, 2017-03-30 01:45

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

ASTANA – The Astana Opera will host its first Astana Opera Ball in the opera house’s Marble Hall on July 1. Cast members are being chosen and tickets to the public will be made available soon.

“Young people from all over Kazakhstan may take part in this ball. For now, mostly residents of the capital city have expressed their interest but the (casting) process is not over yet,” Senior Specialist of the theatre’s press service Yekaterina Romanova told The Astana Times.

One-hundred of the country’s best dance pairs our expected to open the ball. Candidates have to go through a number of steps to participate in the ball casting. Casting for dancers at the ball has almost wrapped up, however, debutantes will be selected on April 2, according to the press office of Astana Opera.

“Single young men aged 18-28 and women aged 18-25 wishing to fill their lives with bright impressions and plunge into the magical atmosphere of the ball may place a request to participate,” the opera house notes.

Age, however, is not the only criteria when it comes to selecting participants. Male participants must be taller than 175 centimetres and females 165 centimetres and taller. Looks, musical sense, plasticity, dance skills and refinement level also matter.

Renowned choreographers will give dance lessons to the selected 100 pairs during three months. Psychologists will be assisting young people in overcoming nervous excitement they might experience due to feeling uneasy about being in the spotlight.

The opera house will provide participants with luxurious ball gowns, tiaras and tuxedos, the press office stated.

The ball committee includes seniors of Astana Opera’s creative team, including Artistic Director of the ballet company and People’s Artist of Russia Altynai Asylmuratova.

The ball is expected to include high-level guests, music stars and media. Tickets will be available for sale as soon as all participants are selected.

“Casting is taking place now. Young people show great interest, however, none of the less female candidates are leading by the number of applications received,” organisers noted.

According organisers, this is a great chance to connect with classic arts, learn dancing and find new, interesting friends.

“Our goal is to make the ball in Astana one if the most significant events on the eve of the Day of the Capital so that thousands of guests from different cities and countries attend this event each year,” organisers said.

The Astana Opera Ball is financially supported by sponsors of the theatre and held with assistance from the Kazakh Ministry Culture and Sports.

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Dimash Kudaibergen wins Best Asian Singer in China’s Top Music Awards

Thu, 2017-03-30 01:42

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

ASTANA – Kazakhstan’s new singing star Dimash Kudaibergen continues buzzing in China. Recently, he won the top award in the China Top Music Awards in the category Best Asian Popular Singer for his outstanding performances in the television show “Singer 2017,” which will broadcast April 8 – 15 during the grand finale of the season.

“I am very happy right now. This is my first award of this magnitude abroad. First of all, I want to thank my parents and my close friends who have been supporting me. And also, the show ‘I am a Singer’ that helped me open up,” Kudaibergen said at the awards ceremony.

“China Top Music Awards” is the Chinese version of the “Grammy Award” in the U.S., awarded for outstanding achievements in music. Ironically, Kudaibergen wasn’t as successful back in Kazakhstan before the show in China.

“I had heard of Dimash last year, when he won some contest in Russia,” said big fan and supporter from Astana Zhaniya Karimova. “We knew about him but we never paid too much attention to what he was doing or what he was singing. Today, we listen to his performances every day at home,” the 25-year-old fan told The Astana Times.

Some time after his rise to stardom in China, French morning television programme “Telematin” discussed Kudaibergen’s performance during the show. Kudaibergen performed the famous French song by Daniel Balavione “SOS d’un terrien en detresse” in French.

The host found Kudaibergen’s voice “beautiful” and despite the fact that he is foreign and doesn’t speak Cantonese or Mandarin has become extremely popular in contemporary China today and has more than 3 million followers on Chinese social media resource Weibo, where he has also garnered some 1.4 billion views.

World-famous Belgian-Canadian singer Lara Fabian also praised the Kazakh through her Facebook page thanking him for reviving the spirit of her own masterpiece, “Adagio.”

“‘Adagio’ travels across continents… Congratulations to Dimash [Kudaibergen] performing at the Chinese TV competition ‘I am a singer’,” she wrote.

Today, Kudaibergen is enjoying the fame that Chinese Singer 2017 has brought him since the beginning of the year. He is signing numerous contracts with world-known labels, is readying to perform at the world exhibition EXPO 2017 this summer in Astana and is preparing to perform for a soundtrack of the famous Chinese television series “Go Go Power Rangers.”

Aktobe-born and raised, Kudaibergen saw overnight success in China after his debut in the song contest in January. “Singer” is a television series that approaches only established performers. There were 16 at the beginning of this season; three still remain – Kudaibergen, the Taiwanese band “Lion” and renowned singer from Hong Kong Sandy Lam – Kudaibergen’s main rival throughout the contest.

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Kazakhtelecom opens network operations centre

Thu, 2017-03-30 01:39

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

ASTANA – Kazakhtelecom Unified Network Management Centre, launched in mid-March in Almaty, aims to help the company automate work and promptly find and fix malfunctions. The centre’s staff processes approximately 400,000 various types of messages each month, from system signals about malfunctions to information alerts, reported

The facility is equipped with the latest security and communication systems and backup systems. All information is displayed on the video wall, one component of the unified control centre’s monitoring system. The screen, measuring 15.5 metres long and 2 metres high, consists of 39 panels which show segments including GPON, large communication stations, a data network, technologies and services provided. The centre is operated by more than 200 employees, including operators, engineers, analysts and equipment experts.

Approximately 95 percent of the processes are automated and labour productivity increased 25 percent as a result of the centre’s activities.

The platform allows optimising the management processes and reducing operating costs, said Kazakhtelecom Board Chairperson Kuanyshbek Yessekeyev.

“Being a trendsetter, we are attracting the best practices, implementing modern software and acquiring equipment that meets international security requirements. I’m confident that the new approach will positively affect the quality of customer experience and the provision of services,” he added.

The centre’s stable operation depends on the uninterrupted provision of services to consumers, noted Kazakhtelecom Chief Technical Director Alexander Lezgovka.

“We wanted to build a new structure in accordance with the security requirements and standards of leading western operators. All emergency and information messages are sent to this centre. The messages are processed in automatic mode, its severity level is determined and further information is displayed on the screens of experts responsible for each specific segment of the network. Experts take measures to troubleshoot problems in accordance with the severity level. In general, the effect from the introduction of the single centre is positive,” he added.

According to regulations, three hours are spent on troubleshooting. Centre analysts, however, can do the same work in one hour and 50 minutes, noted general director Askar Eserkegenov.

“Earlier, similar monitoring systems existed in each regional centre and any report on the accident first came there and only then to the central office. A single centre allows us to see all accidents, regardless of where they took place, in the district centres or in a city. Response to problems and their elimination have become more operational,” he said.

About a half a year was needed to create a single centre and centralise functions. The technical part has been modernised and the best specialists from all regions of the country were attracted to the process.

Information on the company’s technological equipment, services implemented in the communication service market and measures taken to improve the quality of customer service were also presented as part of the event.

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Two Kazakh athletes stand out at modern pentathlon world cup in Cairo

Wed, 2017-03-29 07:50

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

Kazakh athletes Pavel Ilyashenko and Elena Potapenko placed 15th and 19th respectively at the International Union of Modern Pentathlon World Cup March 21-27 in Cairo.

Kazakhstan, which sent eight athletes, was among 26 countries that participated. In addition to Ilyashenko and Potapenko, the Kazakh delegation included Ardak Akhidullayeva, Igor Sozinov, Vladislav Sukharev, Artem Drobotov, Fariza Orumbekova, and Yerkezhan Sabyrbaikyzy. The team was coached by Yelena Akhmetova, Sergiy Turobov, Vladimir Belykh, Sergey Kolegov, and Oksana Dmitriyenko.

In the men’s competition, Ilyashenko and Sukharev ended in the 15th and the 34th places, respectively. Potapenko let the women with her 19th place finish in the competition at Cairo International Stadium.

In the team-relay mixed competition, Potapenko and Ilyashenko performed well, finishing sixth.

Of the team’s performance, Coach Akhmetova told The Astana Times, “I expected, or let’s say hoped for, a better performance from the team. However, I must say that Akhidullayeva, Drobotov, Orumbekova and Sabyrbaikyzy are young players who were exposed for the first time to such a big championship. … These four players participated in championships, but this was their first big event.”

Akhmetova said modern pentathlon is popular in Kazakhstan. “If we compare the status of modern pentathlon in Kazakhstan with its status in other countries, we will see that the sport is widely spread in Kazakhstan.”

That popularity is helped by the Kazakh modern pentathlon league, which attracts young athletes. “Supporting the players at a young age, is an important mean to improve and develop the sport,” she said.

The Kazakh modern pentathlon team will face difficult challenges ahead, including competing in the Youth World Cup in August in Hungary and the Asian Championship in October in Tokyo.

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Almaty’s Evangelical Centre supports country’s religious harmony policy

Wed, 2017-03-29 07:48

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

ASTANA – Agape Evangelical Centre in Almaty supports the idea of religious harmony in Kazakhstan. The church has its own annual and Sunday gatherings for church services, Bible readings and prayers.

Yuri Shumayev. Photo credit:

In 1989, Baikal Dzodziyev and Yuri Shumayev founded the Agape mission. During the 1990s, several evangelisations (outreach) were organised in Almaty and Agape Church began its service in the beginning of 1991.

“Our centre is an ordinary Christian Protestant church that has been operating for 28 years now. My friend and I founded this church together,” Shumayev, a senior minister (pastor) at Agape Evangelical Centre, shared with The Astana Times.

They were conducting social work, helping those in need and nursing homes. People were in kind of a “spiritual vacuum” at the time, he said.

“We began searching for spirituality for them, coming across different religions; this way, our community had formed. Like that, we have grown into a Protestant movement; eventually, Agape Evangelic Centre in Kazakhstan,” he said.

The Greco-Christian term “agape” refers to “love: the highest form of love, charity,” and means “the love of God for man and of man for God.” Like all Protestants, the Agape Church professes the Apostles’ Creed, sometimes entitled Symbol of the Apostles (an early statement of Christian belief – a creed or “symbol”).

“We have a church in Almaty and other branches. We do a regular church service, collaborate with the akimat (city administration), do good and conduct charity and educational work and pray for the country, for the President like all other churches do, I believe,” said Shumayev.

“We are friendly with other churches. We love Orthodox Christians and they love us, too. We are obedient citizens of our country,” he added.

The church usually organises an annual conference where people gather, communicate with each other for two or three days, sing and read the Bible. Every Sunday adherents gather in a similar way – a church service glorifying their creator, reading the Bible, praying, making plans on how they can help those in need and having tea together.

The church is aware of international religious gatherings in the country such as President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s launch of the triennial Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions since 2003.

“We simply pray and say that it is good that such activities take place… We think positively about such events; thank goodness this occasion has been going on for several years,” said Shumayev.

Nazarbayev is considerate about religious harmony [in the country], not letting national and religious enmity to happen, he added.

“Therefore, we are humble about not being invited to such a happening yet; maybe someday we will be. Meanwhile, we support this idea, pray and are glad that Kazakhstan conducts these events, which many people know and discuss. I am even told about this when traveling outside the country. Thank God we have so many nationalities here living in peace together. This is our President’s merit and that God helps us when we pray,” he said.

“I want to say thank you for the possibility to collaborate with authorities, local and city akimats (city administration) in Almaty. We gather for a meeting where we talk about our work, where we are informed about plans and laws. Everything is well,” he added.

Protestantism in Kazakhstan is one of the forms of Christianity in the country. Pentecostalism or Classical Pentecostalism (initially known as the Revivalist Movement) has the largest number of non-Orthodox Christian churches officially registered in the nation.

Four hundred registered communities were Pentecostal at the beginning of 2011. All religious communities were required to re-enter registration by authorities due to new legislation the following year.

In 2016, 217 Pentecostal, 181 Evangelical Christian Baptist, 108 Presbyterian and 14 Evangelical Lutheran churches were re-registered by authorities, according to data from the Kazakh Ministry of Religious Affairs and Civil Society.

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EAEU works on common exchange space for oil products

Wed, 2017-03-29 07:45

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

ASTANA – The issues of organising the exchange trade of oil and oil products under the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) developing programme to form common oil and oil products markets were discussed at a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) advisory committee working group for oil and gas, according to the EEC press service.

“The participants of the common oil and oil products markets will receive a transparent mechanism for the formation of the market price by taking into account exchange and over-the-counter (OTC) indicators for oil and oil products within the framework of the EAEU,” said EEC Energy Department head Leonid Shenets at the event, which was attended by representatives of the EAEU member states’ authorised bodies, oil and gas companies and scientific institutions.

With the beginning of trade on one such exchange site, the St. Petersburg International Commodity and Raw Materials Exchange, the volume of trade in oil and oil products increased more than 600 times in the period 2008-2016 and amounted to more than 15 percent of domestic consumption in the Russian Federation, according to the press release. In 2008 and 2016, the volume of trading in oil and oil products was 27,000 tonnes and 17 million tonnes, respectively.

The participants at the meeting agreed the exchange trade in oil and oil products will take place within the framework of a common exchange space and should be formed on the basis of interaction. The technological processes are expected to be completed by 2021.

According to the EAEU agreement, the programme for forming common oil and oil products markets should be approved before 2018.

A number of measures are anticipated in the second stage, which will last until 2023.The actions include developing rules for access to oil and petroleum products transportation systems and rules of trade on common markets. The project’s main steps should be implemented before 2024. In the final stage, an international treaty within the union on forming common markets for oil and oil products   will need to enter into force.

A number of other topics were also discussed during the meeting, such as the need to establish subsidiary control bodies to manage and support the common markets for oil and oil products, as well as price control and antimonopoly regulation mechanisms.

One of the key issues is OTC price indicators of common oil and oil products markets. With the proposal by the Russian Ministry of Energy, the EEC is considering the possibility of taking the indicators into account when concluding contracts for the supply of actual volumes of oil and petroleum products.

“It has been suggested to take into account the price indices of over-the-counter trades, which are registered by operators. Other proposals include the use of price indices for contracts. They should be calculated on the basis of quotations, which are published by information analytical agencies,” said the statement.

The next meeting of the working group will be held in April 2017.

The EAEU’s fuel and energy complex has a powerful integration potential, as the member states possess about 20 percent of the world’s natural gas reserves and 7 percent of oil reserves. Equally important is the presence of interconnected energy infrastructure facilities created as part of the unified energy system of the former Soviet Union. The fuel and energy complex also represents a significant share of the union’s gross domestic product (GDP) and industrial production – one-sixth of the former and one-third of the latter.

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Movie about Alexei Leonov, first man to walk in space, to premiere April 6

Wed, 2017-03-29 07:43

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

ASTANA – “Vremya Pervyh” (“The Time of the First Ones”), the first Russian movie about the heroic story of Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, will be released April 6 in 3D. The film will also be available in the Kazakh language.

The picture tells the real story of Leonov’s spacewalk during the one-day Voskhod 2 mission. The production crew recreated the dramatic circumstances of the brave flight and crew’s return to Earth. Russian actors Yevgeny Mironov and Konstantin Khabensky played the roles of Leonov and mission commander Pavel Belyayev, respectively.

“This is not a disaster film; it is a film about the success of a person. We made the film and described the story of the hero who did not look at his feet, but looked forward and up. Having gone all the way with actors Mironov and Khabensky, people will believe that they can do anything,” said Kazakh producer Timur Bekmambetov.

The Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities supported the movie idea, he added.

“I would like to thank Kazakhstan and its local people for the land, because all major events took place there. On the snowy morning of March 18, we launched from there. I had never, ever seen the Kazakh steppe covered with white snow and here I saw it. Later, I returned to Kazakhstan to express gratitude to the local people and the land for what we did,” said Leonov.

Leonov invited the Kazakh people to see the blockbuster.

“Dear friends, I invite you to watch the film. I believe that you will enjoy this true story,” he added.

In 1960, Leonov passed the necessary tests and was enlisted in the Soviet cosmonaut detachment. The Voskhod 2 spaceship launched March 18, 1965 with Belyayev and Leonov on board. During the flight, Leonov made history’s first space-walk, lasting 12 minutes, nine seconds.

Minutes after he stepped into space, however, he realised his suit had inflated like a balloon, preventing him from getting back inside. Leonov was forced to bleed off some of his suit’s pressure and demonstrating exceptional courage, climb into the hatch head rather than feet first, which was forbidden by instruction. Seven serious abnormal situations occurred in flight, three or four of which were even deadly, he said.

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International medical aid project brings free reconstructive surgery to Kazakh children

Wed, 2017-03-29 07:41

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

ASTANA – The Asyl Bala Association has launched a project to provide reconstructive and plastic surgeries to children with congenital facial malformations, post-burn deformities and pigmented spots.

The project is being implemented in cooperation with the International Assistance Group and the Medical Centre Corporate Foundation.

Visiting American plastic surgeons specialising in helping children with severe burns, pigmentation issues and a variety of facial deformities examined more than 200 small patients March 13 to 15. Operations for more than 100 children are scheduled for the end of May.

The operations will be conducted for free by Surgicorps International plastic surgeons together with Kazakh surgeons from the Maternity and Childhood National Science Centre in Astana. International Assistance Group Chair Larisa Mason has also agreed to donate facial surgery equipment from the U.S. to the centre.

Asyl Bala Association founder Gulnara Kunanbayeva, who heads the plastic surgery project, explained that the U.S. medical assistance group offers such services around the world and has decided to include Kazakhstan this year. American experts conducted the first selection of children for the operations in October 2016.

“The specialists selected 100 children and 16 of them are from foster homes. They have different diagnoses. There are children with post-burn scars, Goldenhar syndrome, maxillofacial defects, cleft lip and wolf mouth. There are a lot of children with cleft palates. Basically, these are children from low-income families who cannot afford to pay for the operations. Plastic surgeries are very expensive,” she said.

Many of the operations the children need are complicated and consist of several stages, she noted.

Asyl Bala signed a cooperation agreement with Mason to bring the surgeons to Kazakhstan. A respected American specialist will do the surgeries in three operating rooms donated by the Maternity and Childhood Centre. Ten surgeons and anaesthesiologists are expected to come, Kunanbayeva said.

“We provide travel and accommodation for the specialists and they bring the equipment with them, which remains here after the operation. … We plan to conduct 100 operations, but there are many children in need of help. It is possible that more operations will be carried out,” said Kunanbayeva.

During the first stage of the project in October, about 90 children from across Kazakhstan were examined by the national science centre and Surgicorps International plastic surgeons.

Asyl Bala is a nongovernmental, non-profit organisation that coordinates charitable events and campaigns for children. It has offices in all regions of the country.

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UN Commission praises development of women’s entrepreneurship in Kazakhstan

Wed, 2017-03-29 07:38

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

ASTANA – The March 13-24 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations headquarters in New York praised approaches taken by Kazakhstan to increase employment and boost women’s entrepreneurship in rural areas, reported the press service of KazAgro National Management Holding.

Deputy Chairperson of KazAgro Aigul Mukhamadiyeva spoke about the development of women’s entrepreneurship in agriculture in Kazakhstan as one of the most important activities of the holding. According to statistics, agriculture is one of the three most popular sectors of the economy from a gender perspective: 17 percent of the total number of employed women in the economy is involved in agriculture, following trade and education at 19 percent.

Mukhamadiyeva noted a large share of women in agriculture – almost 51 percent of the total number of self-employed women in the country. In other gender-oriented sectors women are mainly employees, but in the agricultural sector women are involved in the manufacturing of products, including in private households.

“The development programme of productive employment and mass entrepreneurship for 2017-2021, initiated by the government, provides great opportunities for the development of women’s entrepreneurship in the rural areas. Implementing the programme, KazAgro Holding takes incentive measures to encourage more women to open their own businesses. Thus, in 2016 KazAgro issued 36.6 percent of the total number of loans to women with a 3-5 percent increase annually,” noted in the report.

The Atameken National Chamber of Entrepreneurs trained 180 novice entrepreneurs under the Bastau programme in 2016, covering 53 percent of women.

The official delegation of Kazakhstan participated in the work of the 61st session of the CSW. Each year, the commission focuses on a certain challenge women face. This year the CSW discussed employment opportunities for women. Participants from at least 170 countries shared their experience in combating discrimination against women and developing women’s entrepreneurship.

In February 1947, the CSW had its first meeting in New York after the United Nations was founded. The CSW is a venue in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women. The commission considers the involvement of women in economic activities, ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women in access to education and work, equal pay for equal work and the impact of technological modernisation on women’s employment opportunities.

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Astana raises a pint to pub culture

Wed, 2017-03-29 07:34

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

ASTANA – No matter what is happening in Kazakhstan – financial crisis, political uncertainty or Barys bowing out of the Continental Hockey League’s (KHL) playoffs, pubs in the capital are crowded and busy come Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“People will always be going to bars and pubs, because it’s become a culture to have a drink or two after a work day. It removes worries and stress, so you could say it’s even healthy,” said 28-year-old temporary resident Sergei Shalygin, a regular on special occasions, in his interview with The Astana Times.

“Just about seven or so years ago, Astana didn’t have much of a bar culture or a pub culture; it all is happening now,” he added. “Olympics – we hit a bar; Universiade – we hit a bar; Golovkin match – we are at the bar; World Cup, guess what, we are in bars and pubs. I can’t remember this type of commotion around pubs before. Just look at the Chechil Pub or Draft, for instance; you won’t find a place at these pubs on weekends.”

Shalygin, who lived in the U.S. and Europe since childhood and often travels between North America and Eurasia, frequently compares Kazakh pubs with western-style bars.

“Today, there are pubs in Astana that can easily beat any western one. The difference is the loud live music in Kazakhstan that almost all pubs have. Surely, it is fun to dance after a couple of shots of tequila. One doesn’t expect a pub to be a place for naps, but it can get annoying when you lose you voice after a trip for a drink or two and for good conversation,” he said.

People have different needs and preferences depending on what each wants on his or her night out and Shalygin shared his pub experience.

Pubs for talking

For quiet conversations, Shalygin prefers such places as the Irish Pub at the Rixos Hotel on the left bank.

“This place is by far my favourite for talks and conversation. It is located at the Rixos Hotel and the service is great, but the administration lets their customers smoke inside. I am a smoker and it’s ok with me, but for non-smokers this isn’t the place to be,” he said.

Number two on his list is Barley, located at the intersection of Valikhanov and Imanov streets.

“This place has everything one needs: good food, live music and even a night club just around the corner. So, whatever you want to do you will find it here,” he added.

Pubs for quality beer

When good beer is on tap, Shalygin and his friends choose O’Hara. The pub is located along the right bank at the bottom of the Grand Alatau residential complex.

“This place will have a demonstration of all sorts of beer upon customer request and there’s always a good choice of beer to accommodate any mood. The live music is very good, but it will make you move, not just listen,” he said.

Shalygin’s second choice is Pivovaroff on the left bank along Saraishyk Street.

“The name of the restaurant is Pivovaroff, which means ‘beer brewer’ in Russian, and this place doesn’t disappoint. A good variety for beer lovers,” he said.

Pubs for dancing and loud fun

The next two pubs are quite affordable and fun, said Shalygin.

“Draft on Tashenov Street rocks the floor and is always packed to the roof on weekends. A great place for random meetups and networking. People at this place are always in a good mood and ready to have fun. This place does have rude administrators; keep that in mind, but not all of them are,” he said.

His second choice in the category went to Chechil on Kabanbai Batyr Avenue.

“Chechil often doesn’t have tables, but to us, the regulars, they will always find one. Very cheap beer and food, loud music, dances and random meetups – this is what this place is about. I would highly recommend it,” he said.

“Third in this category comes Bochonok on Respublika Avenue. This place has decent beer, good food and loud live music. However, it doesn’t always get as busy as the other two, so I would give it third place, but it needs to be mentioned here,” said Shalygin.

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HC Barys out of Gagarin Cup playoffs, loses in second round

Tue, 2017-03-28 01:22

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

The Barys hockey club, much to the regret of its large army of fans, ended its playoff runin the second round of the Gagarin Cup playoffs of the Continental Hockey League with a loss to Metallurg Magnitogorsk, the current Gagarin Cup holder.

Barys lost in all four games of the series – 0:4, 4:5 (OT), 3:5 and 2:3 (OT). It is fair to say that the “snow leopards” played well in the series, with two of its losses coming in overtime.

Despite the defeat, Barys can recognise the past season as a success because the team again made it through the first round of playoffs, repeating its best achievement in the KHL.

Kazakh hockey fans will now have to switch their attention to the performances of the Torpedo club from Ust-Kamenogorsk, which reached the semi-final of the Bratina Cup in the Supreme Hockey League.

And in the third week of April, the Kazakh national team will go to Kiev to compete for the opportunity to play against some of the best hockey teams in the world as it will seek the return to the top division of the world ice hockey for next year.

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