Part 1: Q & A with P. R. Magzhan Ilyassov
Q. What happened – why did the prices of Liquid Natural Gas double on January 1, 2022? Was the price-hike of LNG an independent reasonable business decision or was it part of something sinister, as in the unlawful overthrow of the constitutional government of Kazakhstan by enemies foreign and domestic? When the people-protest of LNG first started, what Orders were Kazakh police and riot-control forces given?
On January 2, 2022, demonstrations began in the Mangystau region in Western Kazakhstan against an increase in retail prices for liquefied petroleum gas. The protesters demanded for reduction of prices to the previous levels and a solution to a number of socio-economic issues. Law enforcement did not restrict the protests.
Following instructions of President Tokayev, the Government promptly responded to the demands of the citizens and took measures to reduce gas prices, and imposed a moratorium on price increases for socially important food products, fuels and utilities.
All persons previously detained during unauthorized actions were released.
Currently, a special investigation team of the Financial Monitoring Agency of Kazakhstan is investigating the unsubstantiated liquefied petroleum gas price hikes in the Mangystau Region. The investigation team has apprehended [former] Vice Minister of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Zhumabay Karagaev, the heads of electronic trading platforms and persons involved in the unsubstantiated increase in prices for liquefied petroleum gas in the Mangystau region. A court of law has ruled to remand the former Kazakh energy official in custody for two months as a measure of restraint.
Q. Why did President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev dismiss the Prime Minister, and takeover chairing the Security Council from First President Nazarbayev? What other changes were made, and why were they necessary to maintain law and order? What changed, that President Tokayev later issued a “Shoot-to-kill” Order?
On January 4, 2022, President Tokayev spoke on national television and urged citizens not to succumb to provocations during the demonstrations, and to strive for mutual trust and dialogue. The President instructed the authorities to find peaceful solutions to problems through dialogue with all interested parties based on respect for the rights and freedoms of citizens.
In response to the demands of the peaceful demonstrators, the Prime Minister and his cabinet tendered the resignation, which was then accepted by President Tokayev.
These actions demonstrated a clear political will and a desire to resolve disputes through dialogue, confirming the commitment of the authorities to the concept of a “Listening State.”
Unfortunately, the initially peaceful protests in a number of major cities were hijacked and manipulated by terrorist, extremist and criminal groups to escalate the situation and violent actions. In this regard, the President ordered to take urgent measures to prevent riots and announced a state of emergency and a curfew throughout the country.
Law enforcement had to use non-lethal means to repel violent attacks on them and the buildings that they were protecting.
Despite the undertaken measures, further escalation of violence was caused by massive armed attacks on government buildings, police stations, civilians, including medical workers, firefighters and journalists. 7 arms stores were looted simultaneously and weapons from these stores (around 1,400 rifles and shotguns) distributed among the terrorists.
The most difficult situation developed in the city of Almaty, where terrorists seized the Mayor’s Office, the local residence of the President of Kazakhstan, city Police Department, the National Security Committee Office, the Prosecutor’s Office, and the studios of a number of TV and radio companies. They also seized the international airport of Almaty, where there were planes of local and foreign airlines with passengers on board.
During these attacks 19 police officers and military personnel of the National Guard were killed. More than 700 law enforcement officers and about 1,300 civilians were injured and up to 400 hospitalized.
Due to the sharp aggravation of the situation in the country, President Tokayev assumed the post of Chairman of the Security Council of the Republic of Kazakhstan. On January 6, he ordered to launch a Counter-terrorism operation in the country aimed at eliminating threats to national security and protecting the lives and property of citizens of Kazakhstan. Internet access was restricted to prevent coordination of actions between terrorists and criminals.
As I mentioned, up to that point, the law enforcement agencies had strict instructions not to use firearms.
Q. What existential threat was Kazakhstan facing, that President Tokayev activated CSTO joint-defense Articles 2 and 4 – and how is that similar to NATO’s Article 5?
Objectively assessing the situation, the President had to appeal to the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) with a request to send peacekeeping forces to help stabilize the country.
The legal basis for the deployment of Collective Peacekeeping Forces of the CSTO in Kazakhstan are Articles 2 and 4 of the Collective Security Treaty, the Agreement on Peacekeeping Activities and the request of the President of Kazakhstan for the provision of necessary assistance.
The mandate of the peacekeeping forces was strictly limited and included the protection of strategic facilities and helping Kazakhstan law enforcement forces. CSTO peacekeeping troops were not involved in anti-terrorist operation. The main actions against terrorist groups are undertaken by the law enforcement agencies and the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Peacekeepers from all CSTO member states – Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan arrived in Kazakhstan, totaling about 2,030 people.
As of today, the collective peacekeeping forces of CSTO have completed their mandate and all of them left the country. No single incident involving CSTO peacekeeping personnel was recorded.
Q. Did former President Nursultan Nazarbayev help in this process, and if so, how?
First President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev remained in the country all this time. On 8 January, his Press Secretary confirmed on Twitter that Nursultan Nazarbayev was in the capital and in direct contact with President Tokayev. Nursultan Nazarbayev called on everyone to rally around the President of Kazakhstan to overcome current challenges and ensure the integrity of the country.
On 18 January, Nursultan Nazarbayev made a video-statement once again calling for unity around the President Tokayev and supporting for his reform agenda.
Q. What steps are necessary to protect Kazakhstan industry, national assets, foreign investments, and most importantly, peaceful law-abiding hardworking Kazakh citizens having a full and free life to follow their dreams in a secular Muslim-majority country? What additional steps will be taken to prevent treason, abuse of power, or corruption? What constitutional changes are envisioned?
Kazakhstan ensures the security and protection of foreign diplomatic missions in the country, as well as the personnel and property of foreign companies and investors. The situation is stabilized and there will be no changes in investment climate of the country, and all our obligations will be fully honored.
On January 11, President Tokayev addressed the people of Kazakhstan at the Parliament, where he outlined the priority areas of work and tasks to be implemented by the new government of the country and state bodies.
President Tokayev has put forward several initiatives to address genuine grievances of the public and ensure long-term prosperity of the people of Kazakhstan. The proposed measures include:
- The Government will make a special effort to address the issues of economic inequality in Kazakhstan. It will ensure that incomes of all groups of the population grow in line with the growth of the national economy.
- Within two months, the Government and the Chamber of Entrepreneurs will develop a program to increase the income of the general public and will prepare concrete proposals to reduce poverty in Kazakhstan.
- The Government, President Tokayev said, should swiftly develop a new Social Code. The Government must adapt its social policies to the new reality, taking into account the challenges of the COVID pandemic and all other problems. The Social Code should become a key element of the new “social contract” of a New Kazakhstan.
- A systemic effort will be made to reduce inflation and ensure stability of the national currency. The target inflation level is 3-4% by 2025. The Government, together with the National Bank and the Chamber of Entrepreneurs, will develop a set of measures to keep inflation at bay. It should include measures to reduce import dependence, reduce excessive interventions and use of monetary policy instruments.
- A special fund “For the People of Kazakhstan” will be established to support Kazakh citizens at the time of need. The fund will be fully transparent and accountable to the public. Its funding will come from private and public sources.
- The disproportion in the economic development of various regions of Kazakhstan will be addressed by the Government. The Government has been instructed to prepare a set of measures to support the regions that are “lagging behind” economically.
- The Government will allocate additional educational grants for young people who live in densely populated provinces of Kazakhstan. The President instructed the Government to open overseas branches of at least five major foreign universities by 2025 and develop a program to attract the best teachers to provinces.
- The creation of a new economic platform is key. The goal of the Government’s economic policy is to develop a full-fledged market economy with a proper social orientation. Diversification of the economy through the development of the manufacturing industry and the support of a fair economic competition are the foundations of this policy.
- The Government will announce measures to rid the civil service of corruption, formalism, and red tape. The President announced that he will issue a separate decree on the “de-bureaucratization” of the government apparatus.
- Kazakhstan will press ahead with the President’s policy of swift political modernization. President Tokayev has already implemented four packages of political reforms.
- The fifth major package of political reforms is currently under elaboration and will be unveiled in September, during the President’s annual State-of-the-Nation address.
- The program of continued political and economic transformation will proceed further. The Government will work with the professional communities and civil society to prepare a package of proposals, which will be considered at a meeting of Kazakhstan’s National Council of Public Trust.
- Full review and audit will also be conducted to combat corruption, ensure transparency and efficiency of the customs administration.
- The Government will take every possible measure to restore the confidence of domestic and foreign investors and trade partners in Kazakhstan’s economy. All of Kazakhstan’s obligations and guarantees to investors will be strictly followed and fulfilled. A new Concept of Investment Policy will be developed to increase Kazakhstan’s investment attractiveness.
The overall situation in Kazakhstan is currently stable. But it is crucial to successfully complete the ongoing Counter-terrorist operation, and fully restore law and order in the country.
A special investigation has been ordered by President Tokayev to bring to justice all the militants and their accomplices involved in crimes against the state and law abiding Kazakh citizens, and to reveal all credible causes and details of the tragedy.
President Tokayev instructed the Office of the Prosecutor General to establish the degree of guilt and, should there be no aggravating circumstances, to mitigate the punishment of persons detained for various offenses.
I would also point out that to ensure human rights and rule of law, Ms. Elvira Azimova, Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsperson) along with the members of the National Preventative Mechanism and the National Council of Public Trust have already visited the detention facilities in Almaty and other cities, and spoke to detainees.
It is worth noting the unity of the people of Kazakhstan in these difficult times. Citizens support measures undertaken by President Tokayev to restore peaceful life, proactively form people’s squads to protect social facilities.
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To conclude, I would like to emphasize that we are confident that the most difficult dark days in the history of our modern country are behind us.
During these tragic events we felt a sincere sympathy, solidarity and support from our international partners and friends.
Kazakhstan will continue its path towards a brighter future. Remaining a responsible member of the world community, Kazakhstan will carry out new reforms in all spheres to achieve new progress in its development. And we rely on further support and cooperation with our international partners in this regard.
As President Tokayev said, now a new stage of development begins in Kazakhstan, this will be a period of true renewal, and we are determined to build a New Kazakhstan.
Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations General information and education Kazakh State University of World Languages and International Relations (1996), Bachelor’s Degree Training courses for diplomats, Clingendael Institute of International Relations, The Hague, Netherlands (1998)
Harvard University, Kennedy School of Public Administration (2013), Master’s Degree in Public Administration
Languages: Kazakh, Russian, English, German
1996-1998 Desk Officer, Attaché of the International Organizations and International Economic Relations Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan
1998-1999 Third Secretary, Second Secretary of the United Nations and International Economic Organizations Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan
1999-2007 International Visits Department, Protocol of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan
2007-2012 Head of the Foreign Policy Center, Administration of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan
2013 Adviser to the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan
2013-2016 Adviser to the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Head of the Foreign Policy Center of the Administration of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan
2016-2020 Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Permanent Representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
Since October 2020 – Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United Nations in New York
Diplomatic rank – Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the first class
Part 2: Kazakhstan honoring its Transparency obligation in the comity of nations at the UN by submitting 3 Note Verbales on January 5, 6 and 10 to UNSC President Ambassador Mona Juul of Norway
Part 3: Q & A with Ambassador Yerzhan Ashikbayev
Q1. Since there are great investments by US companies in Kazakhstan, what steps will be taken to permit normality to return, and peaceful business operations to exist?
Let me first underline that during the tragic January events, the Government took every possible measure to protect the U.S. companies operating in Kazakhstan from any negative consequences. In this regard, I am happy to report that no U.S. company suffered any damage as a result of the violence and destruction that gripped the country. We have maintained candid dialogue with our American partners both through the U.S.-Kazakhstan Business Council under the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and individually with every single company to address any possible concern they may have.
Of course, these past events require urgent actions on the part of the Government to reassure the international business community that Kazakhstan is a safe place to invest. Let me share the statement by President Tokayev: “The Government will take every possible measure to increase the confidence of domestic and foreign investors, and trade partners. We ensure openness of the national economy, sanctity of contracts, respect for intellectual property rights and relentlessly combat corruption.”
I am confident that measures taken by the Kazakhstan Government within President Tokayev’s transformative agenda will further contribute to a stable and secure investment environment in Kazakhstan. I encourage U.S. companies to look to Kazakhstan for new investment opportunities and I hope that in line with increased investments, there will be approval of legislation granting PNTR to Kazakhstan.
Q2. What needs to be done to strengthen Kazakh-US relations?
We definitely need greater engagement to further develop our enhanced strategic partnership. Forward-looking, constructive and open dialogue based on the shared values of respect for human rights, the rule of law, transparency and accountability as well as mutually shared interests of preserving regional and global peace and security needs to be continued with redoubled determination.
Be it strengthening our democratic institutions, economic cooperation, bi-lateral trade, energy security, non-proliferation and disarmament, promotion of human rights, interfaith dialogue or the fight against terrorism or extremism, climate crises, or the battle against COVID-19, Kazakhstan remains a trusted partner that is both eager and capable to contribute substantially.
The 30 years of partnership with Kazakhstan has resulted in unique outcomes that has benefited both our nations and the larger international community. I see great prospects in our continued partnership.
H.E. Mr. Yerzhan ASHIKBAYEV
Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United States of America Prior to his appointment as the Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Yerzhan Ashikbayev has served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan (2013-2021).
Before becoming Deputy Minister, he held the position of Deputy Head of the Prime Minister’s Office – Official Representative of the Government of Kazakhstan since 2012.
Mr. Yerzhan Ashikbayev previously served as Chief of the Foreign Policy Center of the Presidential Administration, Ambassador-At-Large, Chairman of International Information Committee at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan.
From 2002-2004 he served as First Secretary at the Embassy of Kazakhstan to the Kingdom of Belgium. He began his diplomatic career in 1998 as a Desk Officer at the Department of Asia, Middle East and Africa and worked at several positions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan.
Born on June 16, 1974 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, he earned his bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the Al-Farabi Kazakh State National University in 1998.
Ambassador Ashikbayev received his Master’s degree in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2012.
He speaks Russian, English, Turkish and French, and is the recipient of several State Awards.
Married, with three children.