Kazakhstan. According to
Countryaah reports, the state-owned oil and gas company Kazmunaigas increased its ownership in the Kashagan oil
field in the Caspian Sea in January. This happened after
extended negotiations with the foreign companies that found
oil in Kashagan, considered the world's largest field
outside the Middle East. Kazakhstan hopes to double its oil recovery
by 2015 and become one of the world's ten leading energy
President Nursultan Nazarbayev's former son-in-law Rakhat
Alijev was sentenced at the beginning of the year in two
different trials to twice 20 years in prison. The charges
included kidnapping and organized crime, and plans for a
coup d'谷tat. Aliyev, who was convicted in his absence,
denied the charges which he believed were politically
motivated. K. requested him extradition from Austria, which,
however, refused the request. Aliyev was married to
Nazarbayev's daughter and was one of K's most powerful men
when he fell in love with the president.
In February, a court ordered the independent daily
newspaper Law and Justice to be closed. As a reason, errors
were reported when registering, but according to the
newspaper's owner, the reason was reporting on corruption in
Opposition party Nagyz Ak Zhol decided in February to
change its name to Azat (Freedom) and at the same time
elected Bolat Abilov as leader. It was hoped that the
renewal would provide power to challenge the presidential
party Nur Otan's power monopoly.
In May, Kazakhstan became the target of the new Russian president Medvedev's first trip abroad. Kazakhstan had in the spring concluded
an agreement with Azerbaijan on oil deliveries west to
Europe, but Medvedev urged Nazarbayev's regime to continue
exporting most of its oil through Russian pipelines.
After the Georgia war in August, US Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice came to Kazakhstan in an attempt to strengthen the
US position in the region. K. seemed to want to balance the
East-West relations, and in November the Kazakh Parliament
decided to ease restrictions on US and NATO flights to
Afghanistan. It also opened for the possibility of a supply
line of land from the Caspian Sea through K. to Afghanistan.
K. also sought to strengthen ties with the EU by promising
democratization ahead of K's forthcoming OSCE presidency in
Both the grain harvest and the cotton harvest decreased
during the year, partly due to water shortages. In southern
K., a giant pond was planned for irrigation, which is
expected to hold over two billion cubic meters when
completed in 2012.
In November, Parliament passed a law with several
restrictions on religious freedom. Among other things,
individuals were forbidden to share their faith unless they
have written permission from a registered religious
organization and are state registered as missionaries.