2006 January 31. Financial Post on UrAsia IPO and deals with KazAtomProm
Jason Kirby, "Uranium blockbuster: Canaccord Adams-led IPO financing of uranium producer UrAsia Energy faced language barriers, a 14-hour time difference and a drop in the equity markets. But the deal was done," Financial Post, January 31, 2006.
What's it take to bring a uranium producer to market these days? Some highly sought-after mines in Central Asia, half-a-billion dollars and a Rolodex that stretches from Kazakhstan and Russia to London and Vancouver. . . UrAsia got its start when Mr. Giustra and Ian Telfer, CEO of Goldcorp Inc., approached Canaccord Adams last spring. They proposed putting together a new uranium producer and were looking for available assets.
"We've worked in Kazakhstan since the early days," said Canaccord Adams' Mr. Reynolds, in an interview from London. . . . Canaccord Adams put Mr. Giustra in touch with Sergey Kurzin, a Russian-born engineer and CEO of Oriel Resources, a chrome and nickel miner in Kazakhstan, and the group met with representatives of Kazatomprom, the state-owned uranium miner.
Through a complicated series of arrangements, UrAsia negotiated to buy a trio of uranium properties in the country. It raised roughly $60-million through a non-brokered private placement in early September  and used the funds to buy a 30% stake in the North Kharasan project, which has the potential to produce a total of 3,000 tonnes of uranium. Kazatomprom would own the rest.
Then, in exchange for $5-million, UrAsia earned the right to buy into two even larger mining projects, the Akdala mine and the South Inkai project. Again, the state-owned company would retain a stake, this time 30%. Throughout the negotiations, Mr. Giustra made repeated trips to meet with Kazakh officials. But to seal the deal with Kazatomprom for the mines, UrAsia had to raise an additional US$345-million through a brokered private placement . . .
2006 February 13. Kazakhstan: Opposition Figure Found Shot Dead Near Almaty
Gulnoza Saidazimova, “Kazakhstan: Opposition Figure Found Shot Dead Near Almaty,” RFE/RL, February 13, 2006. The bodies of Altynbek Sarsenbaev, a co-chairman of the Naghyz Ak Zhol opposition party, his bodyguard, and his driver were found in the Almaty outskirts early today. The three were reportedly shot dead. A former information minister and a former ambassador to Russia, Sarsenbaev was a fierce critic of Kazakhstan’s current regime. “He was murdered,” said Aydos Sarymov, an aide to Sarsenbaev, in an interview with RFE/RL. “His hands were tied behind his back. They shot him first in front and then in the back of his head. There is no doubt it is a murder.” The Kazinform state agency reports that Sarsenbaev was killed while hunting. The leader of Kazakhstan’s opposition group For a Just Kazakhstan, Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, who was also a presidential candidate in the December presidential election, confirmed Sarsenbaev’s death to RFE/RL but refused to elaborate on possible motives. “Yes, it’s true that he was found dead along with the bodies of his bodyguard and driver,” Tuyakbai said. . . . Sarsenbaev, who was a government official and served as Kazakh ambassador to Russia, joined the opposition in 2003, and declared his intention to run for president.
2006 March 3. Radio Free Europe analysis of Kazakhstan political situation.
Daniel Kimmage, "Kazakhstan: A Shaken System," RFE/RL, March 3, 2006
The final conclusion is that reports of Kazakhstan's stability have been somewhat exaggerated. Critics of President Nursultan Nazarbaev's 91-percent reelection in December 2005 pointed to evidence of "managed democracy," in the form of media manipulation and administrative interference. Critics of managed democracy maintain that it is an inherently unstable system because it mimics democracy's form while gutting its content, making politics the exclusive preserve of a ruling elite that cannot, and will not, be held accountable even as it resolves issues of crucial national importance through murky, backroom deals. When those deals go bad, they sometimes turn bloody. The instability of managed democracy, with its muscular informal groups and anemic formal institutions, has been most evident in the spectacular breakdowns that brought about regime change in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. But crises come in more than one color, and elections are only one possible flashpoint. The current imbroglio in Kazakhstan does not yet have the makings of a full-fledged systemic crisis, but it strongly suggests that despite Kazakhstan's undeniable economic progress and record of stability, it remains an open question whether it is more structurally secure than its post-Soviet brethren.
2006 April 23. Beating of Kenzhegali Aitbakiev.
The regime continued to target the opposition press. Kenzhegali Aitbakiev, a sub-editor of the weekly Ayna-Plus (whose liquidation had been ordered in early April after being sued for libelling Nazarbayev), was attacked and beaten up by a dozen men near his home on 23 April and lay unconscious in the street for three hours before being taken to hospital for an emergency operation for a fractured skull and jaw. [Source: Reporters without Borders, Annual Report 2007]
2006 May 5-6. Cheney meets with Nazarbeyev in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Office of the Vice President
May 5, 2006
Vice President's Remarks in a Press Availability with President Nursultan Nazarbayev of the Republic of Kazakhstan
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. And I'm delighted to be here as a guest of President Nazarbayev today. We met some years ago and I consider him my friend, and I'm delighted to have the opportunity to visit him here in this beautiful new capital of Kazakhstan.
Q Mr. Vice President, you spoke forcefully yesterday about the importance of democratic reform, and you've just mentioned it here again in your remarks, how would you evaluate Kazakhstan along those lines? And what did you say to the President about those issues?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, I have previously expressed my admiration for what has transpired here in Kazakhstan over the last 15 years. Both in terms of economic development, as well as political development. I think the record speaks for itself.
2006 May 5. Ft: Kazakhstan killing dims leader's image
Isabel Gorst, "Kazakhstan killing dims leader's image," FT, May 5, 2006.
The pistol tucked into a dinner jacket to illustrate an article titled "VIP security" in the latest edition of a glossy Kazakh magazine evokes the mood of fear that has gripped Kazakhstan since the murder of a leading opposition politician.
The killing of Altynbek Sarsenbayev, co-chairman of the True Bright Path party, on February 13 sent shock waves through Kazakhstan.
Internationally, the scandal has tarnished President Nursultan Nazarbayev's image as a strong leader in control of the most stable and prosperous republic in central Asia.
Dick Cheney, US vice-president, will hope for reassurances about political and energy security when he meets Mr Nazarbayev in Astana, the Kazakh capital, tomorrow.. . .
A rapid official investigation revealed that the country's first high-profile political murder had been organised by a prominent Senate official. Six security forces officers were named as accomplices. The impression is that Mr Nazarbayev is not fully in control.
2006 June 4. Geopolitical turn away from the United States
Mevlut Katik, "KAZAKHSTAN ENTERTAINS GRAND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PLAN, 4/06/06
The strategy outlined by President Nursultan Nazarbayev and other officials in effect suggests that Russia, and to a lesser degree China, are now viewed in Astana as the main facilitators of growth – not the United States. Thus, it would appear at present that the more Kazakhstan implements its development agenda, the less geopolitical and economic influence Washington stands to enjoy in Central Asia. . .
Nazarbayev during his April 3-5 visit to Moscow appeared to make a significant geopolitical turn away from the United States. He endorsed close economic cooperation with Russia, as well as the formation of a Moscow-involved Eurasian Union. The development of such a union, possibly establishing a free-trade zone encompassing Russia, Belarus and Central Asian states, would put the United States, and US firms, at a severe disadvantage in the region.
Following the Soviet collapse in 1991, the United States forged a close working relationship with Kazakhstan, as Washington was attracted by the Central Asian nation’s energy reserves. In recent years, though, the relationship seems to have weakened significantly. A significant factor hampering close political ties is the so-called Kazakhgate case pending in a New York federal court, in which an investment banker stands accused of routing millions of dollars in bribes to Nazarbayev and another former official from Western oil firms trying to secure energy development contracts.
Another factor that has damaged the US-Kazakhstani relationship is the perception that Washington played a major role in engineering the regional revolutionary phenomenon of 2003-05. US officials adamantly deny trying to foment regime change in the Caucasus and Central Asia in the name of democratization. Nevertheless, having watched Uzbekistan be buffeted by upheaval in 2005 and Kyrgyzstan rapidly sliding toward "faltering state" status following its revolution, Kazakhstani officials appear convinced that the Bush administration’s democratization agenda poses a major threat to regional stability.
Accordingly, Astana now seems to be counting on Russian and China, two countries that have traditionally stressed political stability over individual rights, to help act as guarantors of stable economic development. . .
It is unlikely, given the high stakes in the regional energy contest, that Washington will cede its influence willingly. Indeed, according to diplomatic sources, US and Kazakhstani officials are discussing the possibility of reciprocal state visits by Nazarbayev and US President George W. Bush. A US diplomatic counter-move would likely come during those visits, if they occur. Some analysts believe a centerpiece of any summit meetings would be a firm Kazakhstani commitment to participate in the US-backed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline.
2006 July 5. Nazarbayev decrees Repressive Amendments for Press Law.
Nazarbayev decreed amendments to the press law on 5 July, setting up a fund to pay libel damages (to which all media had to belong), providing for a three-year ban on working as a journalist for those with a media-outlet ordered closed and a ban on newspapers reusing or partly changing the name of a paper shut down by the authorities. Registration with the information ministry was tightened and re-registration made compulsory whenever a media-outlet changed its editor, address or the number of copies it printed, on pain of heavy fines. [Reporters without Borders, Annual Report, 2007].
2006 July 14. Harpers on Nazarbayev visit and presidential proclamation barring corrupt foreign officials from entering the United States
Ken Silverstein, "A Corrupt, Brutal Dictator in the White House? Maybe just for a visit,"
Washington Babylon, Hapers, comn, July 14, 2006. In early 2004, President Bush issued a presidential proclamation barring corrupt foreign officials from entering the United States. . . It's hard to see how Nazarbayev's visit could possibly be squared with Bush's 2004 proclamation. This fall, James Giffen, an American business consultant, is set to be tried in the Southern District Court of New York on charges that he funneled more than $78 million in bribes to Kazakh officials. And guess who is alleged to have received most of that money? President Nazarbayev himself, along with his former prime minister, Nurlan Balgimbayev.
Nazarbayev has some very powerful friends in Washington. In addition to extensive lobbying on his behalf by American energy companies and the oil industry–funded U.S.-Kazakhstan Business Association, Kazakhstan has spent millions on blue-chip Beltway firms such as Patton Boggs and the Livingston Group. (The latter is headed by former Congressman Bob Livingston.) Kazahstan also counts on support from the Houston-based Baker Botts law firm, which has advised energy companies seeking to invest in Kazakhstan and other Caspian countries. The firm's partners include James A. Baker III, who served as secretary of state under George Bush Sr. In late 1991, during the final days of the Soviet Union, Baker and Nazarbayev brokered the emerging U.S.–Kazakh relationship while enjoying a sauna at a villa in the mountains above Almaty.
2006 August 6. Germany backs Kazakhstan chair for OSCE
Kazakhstan gets German backing for head of OSCE
ALMATY, Sunday, Aug 06, 2006 – Germany is actively pushing for Kazakhstan to take over chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2009, despite the country's poor democratic credentials, a letter obtained by reporters on Friday revealed. "Kazakhstan has made impressive progress since its independence," Germany said in a letter to its European partners. "With its bid for the chairmanship in 2009 … Kazakhstan underlines its commitment to the OSCE and the implementation of its standards and principles," the letter continued. Germany argued that the central Asian nation had a multi-party parliamentary system which allowed for an opposition. . . . But the OSCE, which stretches across Europe, Central Asia and North America, has never ruled a Kazak election as free and fair and it criticized the 2004 legislative elections in which the opposition won only one seat.
2006 September 25. Time profile of Kazakhstan
Yuri Zarakhovich, "Coming On Strong," Time, September 25,2006.
Kazakhstan's growing oil shipments to world markets, and its potential to emerge as a stable, modernized, predominantly Muslim but religiously tolerant state with a secular government in the volatile region, have obvious appeal for the Bush Administration — so much so that it tends to downplay the country's gagged media; the arbitrary arrests, exiles and murders of opposition leaders; its rubber-stamp political institutions and bogus elections; and rampant corruption, including a $78 million kickbacks-for-oil-rights case that has been pending in the U.S. courts for more than three years.
Key opposition leaders, who are all former allies and top officials of Nazarbayev, have not fared well. Former Energy Minister Mukhtar Ablyazov was jailed in 2002 for embezzlement and misuse of state funds. A year earlier former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, who played a crucial role in liberal economic reform, was forced into exile and tried in absentia for financial abuses, was sentenced to 10 years and had his property confiscated. Last November, Zamanbek Nurkadilov, a former regional Governor and Emergencies Minister who [an error occurred while processing this directive]had become a strong critic of Nazarbayev and opposition leader, was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds. The official inquiry said it was suicide. However, people still wonder how he could have managed to inflict several mortal wounds on himself and then shoot himself in the back of the head. The opposition sustained a serious blow last February when its key leader, Altynbek Sarsenbayev — who had been Nazarbayev's Information Minister, secretary of the Security Council, and ambassador to Moscow — and two associates were murdered by a group of officers belonging to the National Security Committee (knb), heir to the Soviet-era kgb. Late last month, a court found Yerzhan Utembayev, the former Senate chief of staff, guilty of putting out the contract on Sarsenbayev "for reasons of personal enmity," and sentenced him to 20 years. Nine others received sentences ranging from three years to life for complicity in the murder.
Hoping to slowly add more democratic elements to a system that now rejects them, analyst Asylbek Bisenbayev suggests holding transparent elections at the local level, and gradually expanding them to regional and national bodies. Right now, however, the trend is in the opposite direction: district and town heads to be selected next month will be nominated by regional governors and elected by local legislators, rather than nominated by the people and elected through universal suffrage. And this democratic deficit has big repercussions, even according to the President's own daughter. "Launching a more sophisticated and competitive economy requires a much freer political system," concludes Dariga Nazarbayeva. Without it, Kazakhstan will remain, for all its achievements, a raw-materials export economy, shored up by high oil prices. For now, Papa remains firmly in charge, and has little incentive to change.
2006 September 29. Bush Praises Kazakhstan President
George Gedda, "Bush Praises Kazakhstan President," The Associated Press September 29, 2006. WASHINGTON — President Bush heaped praise Friday on the president of Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country important to the United States as an oil supplier and war-on-terror ally but which has a political system that stifles dissent. U.S. concerns over President Nursultan Nazarbayev's heavy-handed rule did not come up when the two leaders appeared before reporters after their nearly hourlong Oval Office meeting. Instead, the two were all compliments in brief comments that came before Bush hosted a private luncheon for Nazarbayev in the White House residence. Bush thanked Nazarbayev for supporting the U.S.-led war in Iraq, for his willingness to fight terrorists and to help neighboring Afghanistan become a stable democracy, and for his "commitment to institutions that will enable liberty to flourish." Bush offered support for Kazakhstan's desire to join the World Trade Organization.
2006 September 29. Pictures from Bush Nazarbayev meeting:
2006 September 29. Slow progress on reforms in Kazakhstan.
Peter Fedynsky and Victor Morales, "Slow Progress on Reforms in Kazakhstan, 29 September 2006, Voice of America. It was only Nursultan Nazarbayev's second visit to the White House since 2001. Before visiting Kazakhstan earlier this year, Vice President Dick Cheney strongly criticized Russia for backsliding on democracy and using energy to gain political advantage over its neighbors. The following day, Mr. Cheney's remarks about Kazakhstan, another oil-rich nation, were a sharp contrast. "America has tremendous confidence in your future as a successful, independent, sovereign and prosperous nation. Kazakhstan also has a vital role to play in ensuring prosperity, stability and peace across Central Asia," said Vice President Cheney. Critics, however, point to a discrepancy between Mr. Cheney's remarks and many of Kazakhstan's political practices, which human rights monitoring groups frequently cite as undemocratic.
Martha Brill Olcott, an expert on Kazakhstan at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace here in Washington says, "They have passed restrictive laws on non-governmental organizations. The new media law is very problematic from the point of view of independent media. So it is quite clear that they could do more. Their elections have improved over time, but they don't meet international standards of free and fair elections." Robert Cutler with the Institute of European and Russian Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, "There's a sense that something has got to change. But as is often the case, things are not going to change much so long as the autocrat [,Nursultan Nazarbayev,] is still in place."
2006 September 29. Another report on Nazabayev's Washington Visit.
Joshua Kucera , "BUSH: KAZAKHSTAN IS A "FREE NATION," EURASIA INSIGHT, 9/29/06
Washington rolled out the red carpet for Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Following September 29 talks, US President George W. Bush downplayed concerns about Kazakhstan’s recent democratization record, emphasizing that the Central Asian nation appears committed to building institutions "that will enable liberty to flourish." Nazarbayev and Bush held roughly hour-long talks in the Oval Office, followed by a private luncheon. In comments following the meal, Bush characterized Kazakhstan as a "free nation." . . Bush’s comments on Kazakhstan’s record clashed with recent assessments by human rights groups and civil society organizations, which have been critical of the Nazarbayev administration for taking aggressive action to limit domestic opposition.
Nazarbayev decided in the early 1990s to give up the arsenal of nuclear weapons he inherited from the Soviet Union, and for that move was feted at a dinner at a downtown Washington hotel organized by the Kazakhstan embassy and the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Nazarbayev, in his remarks, described Kazakhstan’s decision to disarm, and was praised by luminaries that also included former Senator Sam Nunn and media mogul Ted Turner, co-founders of the Nuclear Threat Initiative.
Also at the dinner, Linton Brooks, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, announced that the United States and Kazakhstan has reached agreement to downgrade nearly all of Kazakhstan’s remaining highly enriched uranium. The agreement calls for the dilution of highly enriched uranium at the Institute for Nuclear Physics in Alatau, and for the conversion of research reactors to operate on low-enriched uranium, Brooks said. During his visit, Nazarbayev met with the heads of energy companies, including ConocoPhilips, Exxon Mobil and Halliburton, as well as with Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank. He also met with members of Congress, including Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, and Rep. Darrell Issa, Republican of California.
2006 Novemer 4. Kazakhstan and the EU set the framework for their energy relations with the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding
On the occasion of the visit to the European Commission of Kazakh President Noursoultan Nazarbaev, the EU and the Republic of Kazakhstan signed today a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that establishes the basis for enhanced energy cooperation. Both parties have also initialled an Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy that will be signed officially at a later stage.
2006 November 5. NYT story about Kazakhstan corruption.
By Ron Stodghil, "Oil, Cash and Corruption," New York Times, November 5, 2006
On a warm afternoon in late September, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev strode across the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base to board his private 767. Surrounded by an entourage of security guards and political advisers, Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan, was heading home after an eventful visit that included a meeting with President Bush in the White House and a boating jaunt in Maine with the president's father, George H. W. Bush. He also attended a swank fete at the Capital Hilton Hotel where his hosts, the business mogul Ted Turner and former Senator Sam Nunn, praised him for closing a major nuclear test site.. . .
In a world long accustomed to outsize public corruption, some analysts say Nazarbayev is in a class by himself. "I can't think of a leader in the free world as notoriously corrupt as Nazarbayev," said Jonathan Winer, a former deputy assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration. "We've known about his corruption for at least 15 years because our own intelligence agencies have told us."
. . . The Clinton administration itself embraced Kazakhstan in the 1990s and praised Nazarbayev for leading his country toward economic and democratic reform. Administration officials, including the former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, also met with Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan. "The Clinton administration certainly had enough information about Nazarbayev's corruption," Winer said. "The information on him was open, notorious and present." . . .
It was not only individuals in Kazakhstan who received some of their client's bounteous fees, former associates of Giffen said. In 1998, two years before federal investigators began looking into Giffen's activities in Kazakhstan, he invited Mark Siegel, a Washington political consultant, to join a group of policy experts to develop a blueprint for reforming Kazakhstan's economy and government. It was an ambitious task, Giffen conceded, but its participants would be well compensated. Siegel, a former executive director of the Democratic National Committee, agreed to a monthly retainer of $30,000 for his firm and soon found himself on a flight to Almaty, Kazakhstan's former capital.
As it turned out, Siegel was in high-powered company. Giffen had harnessed prominent businessmen, policy experts, lobbyists and former government officials to serve on the committee. Among those included in the group were Robert Blackwill, a former ambassador during the first Bush presidency, and Philip D. Zelikow, now a counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Siegel recalled in an interview. Neither Blackwill nor Zelikow responded to interview requests.. .
2006 November 14. 14 Hare Krishna homes are bulldozed in Seleksia, Kazakhstan.
2006 November 21. Tony Blair meets with Nazarbayev in London.
21 November 2006. Tony Blair met with President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, where they discussed international and regional issues. Joint Communiqué with the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
"Kazakhstan and the United Kingdom attach great importance to the further development of cooperation under the Memorandum of Understanding in the sphere of energy. Both countries have expressed support for greater involvement of British companies in Kazakhstan's oil and gas sector development. The prospects of cooperation as regards the peaceful use of nuclear energy will also be explored."
2006 November 23. Timothy Garton Ash on Nazarbayev's London visit.
Timothy Garton Ash, "There must be plain speaking at the end of the red carpet: The Kazakh president may have joked about Borat, but his regime's human rights record is no laughing matter," the Guardian, Nov 23, 2006.
. . . The more involved we are, the more possibilities of influence we have – and you can be sure that China and Russia won't impose any human rights conditions. Often a policy of constructive engagement can move an authoritarian regime towards reform more effectively than one of isolation. This is what I call "offensive detente".
But there must be very clear limits and there must be plain speaking at the end of the red carpet. We should not pretend, to ourselves or anyone else, that Kazakhstan is a democracy or a free country – as we used to pretend with friendly dictators in Latin America during the cold war. At the same time as engaging with the Nazarbayev regime, we should actively support the growth of independent media, an independent judiciary, civil society, alternative political parties and so on. Offensive detente always has two tracks.
And sometimes we must just say no. Kazakhstan, which claims to be part of Europe because a fraction of its territory lies west of the Ural river, came to London seeking British support for its bid to chair the OSCE in 2009. It would be ridiculous beyond words if a country whose elections have fallen so far short of OSCE standards, as has its record on human rights and media independence, were to be given this position. Think Mel Gibson as chair of Alcoholics Anonymous, Jack the Ripper in charge of marriage counselling – or Borat being responsible for accuracy in journalism.