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The Conway Bulletin
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An independent weekly newspaper covering Central Asia and the South Caucasus
An independent weekly newspaper covering Central Asia and the South Caucasus

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JAN. 14 (The Conway Bulletin) -- Uzbek prosecutors interviewed Gulnara Karimova at her home in Tashkent, where she is under house arrest, about money laundering, media in Switzerland reported by quoting her lawyer.

This is the first news of Ms Karimova since her father, former Uzbek president Islam Karimov, died in September. In November a report surfaced on opposition news website that she had been poisoned.

The German-language business newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung published an interview with Ms Karimova’s lawyer, Gregoire Mangeat, who said that he had flown to Tashkent for the interviews held on Dec. 9/10.

He said that she was in good health but had been under pressure from the two state prosecutors to admit to various crimes.

“She was very combative and showed an amazing resistance to the arbitrary situation,” he said. “She bravely endured the confrontation with the three Uzbek prosecutors in military uniform. Twice, however, she burst into tears.”

Mr Mangeat also said that Ms Karimova’s living conditions were inhumane and designed to make her crack.

“My client is held in a small annex of her former house in the centre of Tashkent. The rest of the house has decayed,” her said. “Gulnara Karimova is completely isolated.”

Ms Karimova had been viewed as a potential successor to her father but in February 2014, as prosecutors from Europe and the United States started investigating telecoms companies who had paid her bribes worth hundreds of millions of dollars for access to the Uzbek market, she was placed under house arrest. Since then, very little has been heard of the once self-style fashion diva, pop star, roaming ambassador and business leader.

ENDS

>>This story was first published in issue 313 of The Conway Bulletin, a weekly newspaper covering Central Asia and the South Caucasus

Kazakhstan cuts uranium production, pushes up prices

ALMATY, Jan. 10 (The Conway Bulletin) — Kazakhstan, the world’s top uranium producer, pledged to cut uranium output, immediately pushing up the price of the metal by 10%.

The production cut promise, and subsequent price rise, demonstrated just how much influence Kazakhstan has over the global uranium market. It currently produces around 40% of the world’s uranium.

Announcing the 10% cut in production, Kazatomprom chairman Askar Zhumagaliyev, said that 2017 had been scarred by a global oversupply of uranium.

“It will be better for our shareholders and stakeholders to leave these strategic uranium resources in soil, rather than use them in the current situation of oversupply,” media quoted him as saying.

“The uranium will be produced when the situation improves in the markets in the coming years.”

Uranium prices collapsed in 2017, hitting a 12-year low of $18/pound in mid-December. This represented a drop of 25% since September.

Analysts blamed a number of factors.

A tsunami in 2011 knocked out the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. Fukushima had been a major buyer of uranium before the accident and knocking it out of the market had triggered an immediate oversupply. The accident at Fukushima also dented the reputation of nuclear power as a safe and reliable energy source and a drop in global oil prices also switched attention away from nuclear power and back to hydrocarbon-fired power which has dropped in price.

Kazakhstan has also contributed to the glut of uranium as it moved to become the world’s biggest supplier. Kazakh uranium production shifted from 18,000 tonnes in 2010 to 24,000 tonnes in 2016. In 2007, Kazatomprom mined 5,000 tonnes.

After the Kazakh cut announcement, which represents around 3% of global supply, Uranium’s spot price rose to $24.25/pound, its highest since September.

ENDS

>> This story was first published in issue 312 of The Conway Bulletin newspaper

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Take a look at the latest frontpage of the 12-page weekly independent newspaper for Central Asia and the South Caucasus
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And the top story:

BAKU, Dec. 2 (The Conway Bulletin) -- Appearing to admit that the economy is in a worse state than it had previously imagined, Azerbaijan’s government appealed directly to people to spend less and save more (Dec. 2).

The plea, made by the Deputy Speaker of parliament Bahar Muradova during a debate on the state budget, triggered derision and scorn from an increasingly frustrated public who have seen their political leaders slapped in the face time after time by worsening economic news.

Last month the government finally admitted what international economists have been saying throughout the year -- that the Azerbaijani economy will shrink by around 3% this year. This readjustment was set against the soundtrack of the manat continuing to lose value against the US dollar, it is down around 18% since June, a shortage of US dollars in banks and tightening currency controls.

And now Ms Muradova’s plea for frugality.

“The fall of oil prices in the world market and a devaluation of the manat requires people to go into saving mode,” media quoted her as saying.

“People need to get used to poverty and people must keep their expectations towards the government realistic by considering that 2017 will be more difficult.”

A Conway Bulletin reporter said that people in Baku and across the rest of Azerbaijan were becoming angry and frustrated. Thirteen smaller banks have closed in 2016 and official data showed that unemployment had increased by 21% from 2015.

Arif Bayramov, a resident of Azerbaijan’s second city Ganja said that he simply can’t find a job.

“I’m one of dozens who can’t find a job,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what MPs say, we have to get used to saving for years.”

In Baku Hamza Aliyev, 51, said that corruption was still dragging the country down.

“At present, the national currency loses value every day, prices are rising day after day and, put simply, bribery and corruption do not create new jobs,” he said.

Earlier this year a series of unprecedented protests swept across regional cities in Azerbaijan. Under police pressure these died away almost as quickly as they broke out but the leaderless nature of the protests worried Azerbaijani officials. The economy is now in a worse state than it was at the start of the year.

Hayat, a student in Baku, summed up the frustration. He said the government should drop its prestige projects and instead spend money on improving the lives of ordinary people.

“They did not save the oil revenues. Currently, the government continues to hold populist events and spend billions of dollars on them,” she said. “Formula 1 and the Islamic Games are planned but people are told to save instead of cancelling these events.”

ENDS

>>This story was taken from issue 208 of the weekly Conway Bulletin newspaper


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The Bulletin's latest frontpage. For more info on the weekly newspaper and how to subscriber, please visit our website
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And the Bulletin correspondent's report from the Georgia-Russia rugby match in Tbilisi and its significance -- 
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