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|09ASTANA187||2009-01-31 02:32||2011-08-30 01:44||UNCLASSIFIED||Embassy Astana|
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000187 SIPDIS STATE FOR SCA/CEN, DRL E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PGOV PHUM EPET SOCI KDEM KCRM KWMN KZ SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: LIFE ON THE STEPPE, JANUARY 24-30 ¶1. The following is part of a series of weekly cables from Embassy Astana with tidbits on daily life in Kazakhstan. KARAGANDA DISABLED: "SEX PLEASE" ¶2. A disability rights group in Karaganda called on the government to legalize prostitution and to provide disabled people with special "cards or checks for a specified amount to be used (to pay) for the services of commercial sex," local media reported. Tirlik ("Everyday Life") chairwoman Roza Petrus said Kazakhstan's disabled people have limited possibilities for intimacy and "that affects their physical and mental health. Call-girls, who offer sex in classified advertisements, refuse to come when they learn the client is disabled. The simply hang up the phone or turn away at the door." According to Petrus, the problem does not apply specifically to men: "The majority of disabled people in Kazakhstan are women. They are physically handicapped, but in every respect are women that want to be loved." ¶3. Not waiting for the government to act, some prostitutes took it upon themselves to remedy the situation. Last week, Petrus happily announced that she received unexpected support from the Karaganda sex workers. "Representatives of commercial sex services approached me," Petrus said, "and said that at a general meeting they decided to offer their services to Karaganda's handicapped with steep discounts of up to 90 percent," Karavan newspaper reported. "I am very happy that at least the prostitutes showed real compassion and understanding of our problems," she added. ¶4. Tirlik's request was an impressive publicity stunt, yet it also points to a deeper problem, literally hidden from the public. According to a World Bank discussion paper published last year, around 405,000 Kazakhstanis -- 2.7 percent of the total population -- receive state social disability allowances. Legislation covering the interests of the disabled is nominally quite liberal, granting a quota for university places and employment. On a societal level, however, people with physical and mental disabilities are effectively sidelined from public life. It is very rare to see disabled people in Kazakhstan, and most cities remain poorly equipped to deal with physically handicapped people. KAZAKHSTANI CRIMINALS TAP INTO OIL PIPELINE ¶5. A recent rise in criminal activity resulting from the current economic crisis has provided some examples of real ingenuity and out-of-the-box thinking on part of the Kazakhstani criminals. Last week, police in Almaty oblast arrested members of a criminal group that ran a complex operation to siphon off crude oil from the Atasu-Alashankou pipeline which takes Kazakhstani petroleum to China. ¶6. A team of criminals from various parts of Kazakhstan decided to forgo the usual petty theft and other schemes, and put its eyes on the real prize of Kazakhstan. Despite the recent fall in the price of oil, the potential for profits in oil trading remain huge, especially since stealing entails virtually zero production costs. Yet like drilling for oil in the ground, drilling for oil flowing inside a pipeline is a technologically difficult operation. To overcome the technological challenges, the group apparently recruited engineers, welders and other specialists -- and a security team armed with automatic weapons to protect the operation from unwelcome surprises. ¶7. The group drilled several holes into the pipeline, which runs from oil fields in southern Kazakhstan through the Almaty region to China, and then pumped oil into tank trucks waiting nearby. Each drilling operation took twenty minutes. The police became involved after a tip-off from the Chinese and directed their focus on the usual suspects: local criminal groups and insiders from a local oil trading company and security firm. After an initial investigation, seventeen people were arrested during one "oil drilling operation." The whole incident has a touch of an international scandal that has the Chinese up in arms. Closer to home, however, Kazakhstan's "Rybachinskie" organized crime group, which operates in Almaty oblast, has reportedly expressed unhappiness about the competition. VILLAGERS LEFT TOO CLOSE TO OIL FIELD ¶8. A district court in Astana has agreed to review a lawsuit against the government which alleged that it failed to ensure the ASTANA 000001 87 002 OF 002 relocation of people living close to the Karachaganak oil field. Three Kazakhstani NGOs -- Crude Accountability-backed Green Salvation, Shanyrak, and Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights -- filed the lawsuit last year on behalf of the residents of the village of Berezovka. Part of the village is located in the sanitary protection zone around Karachaganak, which by law should be left uninhabited for environmental safety reasons. According to the lawsuit, the government was responsible for relocating the residents of the village, but failed to act. "At the end of the day, it is not they (the local residents) that came to populate the oil field, it is (the oil company) which came to occupy their land," writes Kazakhstani newspaper "Megapolis." Karachaganak Petroleum Operating (KPO), the operator of the Karachanak field, maintains that, while aware of the dispute, it has no influence on the decision. HOAGLAND