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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ASTANA1195 2008-06-30 12:06 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

DE RUEHTA #1195/01 1821206
P 301206Z JUN 08

E.O. 12958: N/A 
1. (SBU) Emboffs visited Pavlodar during June 4 to June 6 and 
met with the Akimat (local government administration), the 
ruling Nur Otan party, opposition political parties, a 
representative of the Central Election Commission, media, and 
NGOs.  Akimat officials were upbeat regarding both the 
political and economic situation, though they admitted that 
rising prices and the credit crunch resulting from the global 
financial crisis are having a negative economic impact.  Nur 
Otan dominates the local political scene and receives and 
tries to resolve citizens' complaints about corruption and 
socio-economic problems.   Opposition parties appear to be 
quite weak; however, civil society organizations are becoming 
increasingly active on a number of issues, and cooperate with 
the local authorities.  An evangelical pastor expressed 
concerns about proposed amendments to Kazakhstan's religion 
law.  An independent journalist told us that there is 
pressure to censor stories, but journalists can get away with 
publishing critical materials about the local government, so 
long as they balance this with more favorable pieces.  End 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
Akimat Officials Upbeat on Political and Economic Situation 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
2. (SBU) Emboffs visited Pavlodar during June 4 to June 6, 
conducting meetings there with the Akimat (local government 
administration), the ruling Nur Otan party, opposition 
parties, the media, and NGOs.  Pavlodar, located 120 
kilometers from the Russian border, is the capital of 
Pavlodar oblast (region) and the industrial center of 
northeast Kazakhstan.  Pavlodar is a multi-ethnic city, with 
70 ethnic groups represented, and an overall population of 
323,000.  While Russians and other Slavs used to make up 70 
percent of the city's population, that number has fallen in 
recent years to just 40 percent. 
3.  (SBU) Gulzhan Akhmetova, head of the Akimat's Internal 
Policy Department, told poloff that the political situation 
in the oblast is stable, with no inter-ethnic conflict.  She 
said the aim of local authorities is to preserve peace and 
public accord.  The Akimat maintains close contact with the 
more than 300 NGOs in Pavlodar oblast, under the umbrella 
"Civic Alliance" organization.  Akhmetova said that the 
Akimat also cooperates with the 17 ethnic cultural centers 
operating in Pavlodar, Nur Otan and other political parties, 
as well as religious groups.  The Religious Council of 
Pavlodar Oblast meets twice yearly, and representatives from 
all religious groups are invited to these meetings.  (Note: 
This last claim was later contradicted by a Protestant pastor 
we spoke with.  End Note.)   The Department of Internal 
Policy also has a special office dedicated to monitoring the 
media, as well as for explaining government policies through 
the media and raising public awareness about specific issues. 
4. (SBU) Sergey Statsenko, the head of the Akimat's 
Department of Entrepreneurship and Industrial Development, 
discussed with us the strategic goals for the oblast's 
economic development.  Currently, Pavlodar's main industries 
are coal extraction and metallurgy.  There are five 
large-scale projects being implemented in the oblast, 
including an aluminum processing plant and a tube-rolling 
mill.  Key exports include metallurgical products 
(ferrochrome and alumina), while key imports include 
equipment and spare parts.  One of the goals of the 
government is to increase the number of exporting companies. 
Another goal is to create a "food belt" around Pavlodar to 
produce dairy products and meat. 
5. (SBU) The official unemployment rate in Pavlodar is 6.6 
percent.  Statsenko noted that due to the domestic 
reverberations of the global financial crisis, commercial 
banks have been giving fewer loans to local enterprises. The 
credit crunch has affected small and medium enterprises most 
of all.   Regarding foreign business participation, Statsenko 
explained that the region was interested in joint ventures, 
not foreign loans.  They would like to obtain advanced 
technologies and develop "know how" and high value-added 
production.  Currently, there are no American businesses 
operating in the region. (Comment:  Akimat officials appeared 
to be suspicious of the motives for our visit.  They asked us 
repeatedly why we chose to come to Pavlodar, and with whom 
else we were meeting.  One Akimat official seemed to know 
exactly where we were going to be at all times.  End Comment.) 
ASTANA 00001195  002 OF 004 
Nur Otan Dominates Political Scene 
6. (SBU) Nur Otan -- President Nazarbayev's ruling party -- 
has 14 offices throughout Pavlodar oblast.  In the Pavlodar 
oblast maslikhat (legislature), all 32 representatives are 
Nur Otan members, and in the Pavlo
dar city maslikhat, 23 out 
of 25 members are from Nur Otan, while the remaining two are 
political independents.   Nur Otan representatives told us 
that the party's two main goals locally are enhancing 
cooperation with youth and fighting government corruption. 
According to Nur Otan, the political situation in the oblast 
is stable, but there are problems with rising food prices. 
As a result, real wages are not keeping up with inflation. 
To mitigate the problem with food prices, the party has 
approached commercial banks advocating for lower interest 
rates for local food producers. 
7. (SBU) Nur Otan maintained that some large local 
enterprises have joined their party at their own volition, 
including KazChrome, Access Komir, Pavlodar Oil Refinery, and 
Aluminum Kazakhstan.  They claimed that other political 
parties are not active in the region except during election 
periods.  Nur Otan told us they maintain close cooperation 
with NGOs and organize joint events with them, such as job 
fairs, public waste management hearings, and environmental 
campaigns.  Each Nur Otan office has an anti-corruption 
council that reviews corruption claims received from local 
citizens.  They also receive and review other complaints, 
with 45 percent of them socio-economic in nature, such as 
housing, employment, and social welfare problems.  Nur Otan 
also has telephone hotlines through which it receives 
anonymous complaints.   (Note:  Nur Otan claimed that they 
had "fixed" water sanitation problems in Mayskiy district --- 
the poorest district in the oblast -- but this claim was 
contradicted in our subsequent conve 
rsations with representatives of NGOs, opposition parties, 
and the media.  End Note.) 
8. (SBU) We arrived in Pavlodar on June 4, the "Day of State 
Symbols."  This holiday was marked in Pavlodar with rallies 
and speeches.  Nur Otan organized a youth rally on the main 
town square, blocking off traffic.  Young school children all 
wore Nur Otan tee shirts and caps.   (Note:  The opposition 
parties we spoke with compared this to the days of communism 
and the "young pioneers," and they complained that Nur Otan 
is exploiting children by using them to market Nur Otan.  End 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
Opposition Parties Allege Corruption and Harassment 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
9. (SBU) We held a round table discussion with local 
representatives of opposition parties -- the National Social 
Democratic Party (OSDP), Azat, and the unregistered Alga 
party -- at Alga's headquarters.  In contrast to the large 
and modern Nur Otan building, Alga's headquarters were 
located on the first floor of an apartment building outside 
the city center.  All the opposition representatives said 
they considered the parliamentary elections of August 2007 to 
be illegitimate.  They complained about pervasive corruption 
in both the akimat and maslikhat.  They told us that they 
have no access to the akimat and are not invited to 
participate in any political meetings or discussions.   They 
also alleged government harassment against their parties. 
The OSDP representative even claimed that he had been 
assaulted and prevented from attending an important 
opposition meeting in Almaty.   The OSDP representative 
claimed that OSDP has over 6,000 members in Pavlodar oblast, 
is recruiting new members, and is preparing for possible 
early parliamentary elections in the Fall of 2008.   Azat 
said they had 5,000-7,000 members and Alga claimed they had 
3,500 members in the oblast.  The Alga representative said 
Alga provides free legal advice for local residents, 
including protection of their interests in court.  The 
opposition parties claimed that unemployment in the oblast 
was actually close to 50 percent, and that the low figures 
given to us by government officials did not account for the 
involuntarily "self-employed," such as vendors in local 
10. (SBU) Sansyzbay Akimbekov, the sole representative of the 
Central Electoral Commission (CEC) in Pavlodar, told us that 
all the opposition parties in the oblast are weak, and most 
did not have any representative offices in the individual 
districts of Pavlodar oblast.  He maintained that during the 
2007 parliamentary elections, the opposition parties were 
allotted sufficient broadcast media access, but did not use 
it effectively and did not have strong programs or agendas. 
ASTANA 00001195  003 OF 004 
Akimbekov further claimed that the opposition parties could 
not provide enough members to serve on local electoral 
committees, which is why political independents were found to 
represent them in the electoral committees.  He claimed that 
there were some violations during the August 2007 elections, 
but they were of minor significance in affecting the results. 
 Commenting on the overall situation in Pavlodar, Akimbekov 
said that the oblast has good prospects, and that living 
standards are rising.  He believes that Kazakhstan needs to 
have a law empowering local governments, so that decisions 
can be made from the bottom up.  Finally, he opined that 
civil society in Pavlodar is quite strong, and said that the 
local akimat and maslikhat consult with NGOs on a regular 
Evangelical Critical of Draft Religion Law 
11. (SBU) Ilya Chirikov is pastor of the Jesus Christ Church, 
an evangelical Protestant church which opened in Pavlodar in 
1993 and currently has about 400 members, more than a quarter 
of whom are ethnic Kazakhs.  Currently, there are 
approximately eight or nine Protestant churches in Pavlodar. 
 Pastor Chirikov told us he was extremely concerned about 
proposed amendments to Kazakhstan's religion law which are 
currently under consideration in parliament.   His church 
sent a letter protesting the proposed legislation to the 
Majilis (the lower house of Kazakhstan's parliament) as well 
as to the local maslikhat.  Chirikov complained that the 
legislation aims to divide religions into traditional (Muslim 
and Orthodox) and non-traditional groups, contains too many 
prohibitions, stipulates too many violations subject to 
fines, and includes ambiguous provisions that could be used 
to prosecute religious groups.  Chirikov claimed his church 
has been encountered problems with the city akimat.  For 
example, he said that when several young people from his 
church gathered on the river embankment to sing songs and to 
speak about God, the city akimat insisted they disperse. 
An Independent Journalist's Perspective 
12. (SBU) We also met with Alexander Baranov, a journalist 
with the weekly Gorodskaya Nedelya, an independent newspaper 
established 10 years ago which claims to have a circulation 
of 19,000-21,000 copies.  Regarding freedom of the press, 
said there is pressure to censor stories, but 
journalists have learned how to get around it.  He can get 
away with publishing some critical materials about the local 
government, but this has to be balanced with more favorable 
pieces.  Baranov discussed a recent article of his which was 
highly critical of the mismanagement of water resources in 
the oblast's poor Mayskiy district.  He gave us a first-hand 
account of his visit to the district, including explaining to 
us the poor state of sanitation (e.g. lack of potable water), 
and the fact that the authorities were so angered by his 
attempts to speak to the local population that they took him 
in for questioning and tried to confiscate his camera. 
Baranov complained that there is a lack of qualified experts 
whom journalists can approach for commentary on salient 
issues.  He said that government officials would never make 
any critical comments, and sometimes NGOs were also afraid to 
comment on controversial issues, fearing a loss of government 
contracts.  He also complained that independent journalists 
have poor access to official information, especially to 
information from law enforcement authorities, and are not 
invited to press conferences or meetings at the akimat. 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
Civil Society Shows Signs of Increased Development 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
13. (SBU) Yelena Anatolieva, director of the Slavic Cultural 
Center, a community center which serves the local Russian 
speaking population, told us that inter-ethnic relations in 
Pavlodar were generally good.  However, some Russians still 
want to immigrate to Russia because they do not want to learn 
Kazakh, are concerned about local economic conditions, or 
want better opportunities for their children.  Part of 
Anatolievna's role is to advise and counsel Russians who are 
considering immigrating.  She works closely with the Russian 
Embassy in Astana and the Russian consulates in Almaty, 
Pavlodar, and Uralsk to facilitate the process.  She 
maintained that Russia's program to repatriate Russians from 
abroad is not yet very successful.  During the past year, 500 
people applied to immigrate in Pavlodar, but only 100 people 
actually completed the process. 
ASTANA 00001195  004 OF 004 
14. (SBU) We also participated in an interesting round table 
with several NGOs, including Delta Credit (a microfinance 
organization), Zhardem (HIV/AIDS prevention), the Pavlodar 
branch of the Kazakhstan Human Rights Bureau, the Criminal 
Reform and Monitoring Committee, and Ecom (an environmental 
protection organization).   All of these NGOs are part of the 
Civic Alliance, which is an umbrella NGO headed by Sergey 
Gulayev, one of only two independent members of the city 
maslikhat.  Zhardem's target population are drug addicts, 
prostitutes, and homeless people.  It is based in the city of 
Aksu, which has the highest HIV infection rate in Pavlodar 
oblast.  The main health problems in Pavlodar oblast include 
tuberculosis, drug addiction, cancer, and gastrointestinal 
diseases (due to poor water quality).  Obstacles encountered 
by this NGO including a lack of funding to hire a lawyer for 
its staff. 
15. (SBU) The Criminal Reform Monitoring Committee said the 
main issues that they are working on include prison reform, 
monitoring of prison conditions, and reform of the legal 
system.  Criminal suspects and their lawyers are often 
unaware of the right to a jury trial, they reported.  The 
Human Rights Bureau (HRB) provides legal advice to vulnerable 
groups, such as abused women, children, and adolescents.  The 
HRB told us that they have seen a sharp rise in the sexual 
abuse of children, particularly in schools.  Other areas that 
they work on include protection of mentally ill people and 
prison inmates.  When queried, HRB told us that they have not 
been asked for assistance by religious groups. 
16. (SBU) Ecom is one of three local NGOs focused on 
environmental protection.  Ecom maintained that the high 
incidence of diseases such as cancer in the local population 
is due to radiation exposure from the former Soviet nuclear 
test site at Semipalatinsk.  Other environmental problems 
include the polluted Irtysh river (resulting from upstream 
industrial facilities), the dumping of mercury and other 
industrial by-products in local lakes, and the use of gas 
flaring by the local oil refinery, which leads to toxic 
emissions.  Ecom claimed that a government monitoring agency 
had determined that a large proportion of parents whose 
children suffered from cerebral spastic infantile paralysis 
worked at the local aluminum plant.  These statistics, 
however, were classified, and the official who leaked this 
information was subsequently fired.  Ecom noted that NGOs do 
not carry out independent research because of limited funds; 
thus, they have to keep pressing local authorities to release 
relevant environmental information.  Ecom complained that 
despite their promises to hold environmental hearings on 
proposed industrial projects, local authorities hold only 
hearings where the outcome is already pre-determined. 
Furthermore, the oblast akimat's public environmental council 
is never convened. 
17. (SBU) Comment:  We were impressed with the high level of 
professionalism and dedication of these NGOs leaders.  All of 
them stressed the low level of awareness by the local 
population about the issues of human rights, environmental 
pollution, and human health.  All said that education and 
awareness of these issues needs to be raised in order to have 
a strong public dialogue.  Nevertheless, we came away with 
the impression that the influence of civil society is 
growing.  For instance, due to intervention by an NGO, the 
akimat decided to build an aluminum plant eight kilometers 
outside the city center, rather than closer to the center. 
Thus, positive steps are being made incrementally.  End 


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