WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 598 Part 2, December 19, 2009

power company is not paying for electricity taken from Russian-owned dam 
scheme.  By Olga Kochneva in Dushanbe

spied on Tajik uranium facility fit wider pattern of suspicion and mistrust.  
By Parvina Khamidova in Dushanbe

SPEAK KYRGYZ, NOT RUSSIAN, DIPLOMATS TOLD  New rules seem unworkable since most 
diplomats currently work in Russian and will find it hard to switch language.  
By Yevgenia Kim in Bishkek

money-laundering could be used to monitor and obstruct civil society groups.  
By Dovlet Ovezov in Ashgabat

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Questions raised as to why Tajik power company is not paying for electricity 
taken from Russian-owned dam scheme.

By Olga Kochneva in Dushanbe

Tajiks are used to power shortages but along with the first cold spell of 
winter, they are facing a fresh crisis as a major power station cuts supplies. 

Managers at the giant Sangtuda-1 hydroelectric scheme switched off two of the 
four turbine units on December 2, saying the company was owed millions of US 
dollars by the national distribution company Barqi Tojik. In a letter to Tajik 
prime minister Akil Akilov on November 13, they warned of the partial shutdown 
and said the plant might stop generating altogether by the end of the year 
unless the debt was cleared.

The effect of the reduced output was felt most in Khatlon, the province that 
covers southern Tajikistan, where Sangtuda is located. 

Bahrigul Abdullaeva, a resident of Bokhtar district, thinks herself lucky if 
the electricity is on from 6.00 till 8.30 in the morning, and for another two 
and a half hours in the evening. 

“It’s a good thing, because in previous years we did not have electricity for 
several months each winter,” she said. “Of course, we have got used to living 
without electricity in winter, and we prepare stoves, firewood and coal. In 
winter we live like as in the middle ages … we can’t watch TV or even charge 
our mobile phones. I hope this winter is a mild one, so that the fuel will last 
us till spring.” 

Hailed as a showcase investment project, the Sangtuda-1 plant began operating 
last January, after the Russian firm United Energy Systems, UES, invested in 
work to complete the plant which had been under construction for many years. 
Russian president Dmitry Medvedev travelled to Tajikistan for the formal 
opening ceremony in May. 

The Russian government owns 66 per cent of the shares in the company running 
the plant, UES and an affiliate company own about 17 per cent while the Tajik 
government holds the remaining 17 per cent. 

Tajikistan suffers frequent power shortages and blackouts over the winter, and 
building new power stations with the help of foreign investors is seen as 
essential to making the country self-sufficient in electricity, and even 
allowing it to export to neighbouring states. 

Sangtuda-1 alone should substantially reduce the winter shortfall, while 
another plant, Sangtuda-2, is currently under construction with Iranian 
funding. Upstream on the same river, the Vakhsh, lies the still incomplete 
Roghun plant, which will have one of the world’s highest dams. 

The Sangtuda-1 dispute centres on Barqi Tojik’s non-payment of 41 million 
somoni, about 9.5 million US dollars, for electricity supplied to it over the 
course of the year. 

In early December, the power station’s director Vladimir Belov said Barqi Tojik 
had started paying the debt, but the ten million somoni transferred so far – 
around a quarter of the total sum – was not enough to cover the hydroelectric 
plant’s routine maintenance, ongoing construction work, wages and payments to 
suppliers and the taxman . 

“People have started leaving. Now we’re 30 per cent down on the number of 
construction workers we need. We don’t have enough money,” said Belov. “We owe 
millions [of somonis] to the tax inspectorate, as well as to our suppliers and 

Barqi Tojik spokesman Nozirjon Yodgori confirmed to IWPR that the company was 
trying to clear its debts to Sangtuda plan according to a phased schedule. It 
was going to pay three million dollars a month, meaning that past and current 
payments would be up to date by the end of March. 

Yodgori said Barqi Tojik had been unable to pay its supplier because in turn, 
it was having difficulty collecting payment from its consumers, above all 
government agencies and large industrial enterprises. The giant aluminium plant 
at Tursunzade, which consumes huge amounts of electricity, owed Barqi Tojik 
one-third of the total debt.

“They owe us millions,” said Yodgori. “One of the major defaulters is the 
aluminium plant. It owes us 129 million somoni [30 million dollars]. The water 
management ministry owes us 151 million somoni, the water utility company 13 
million, the agriculture ministry 27 million, and domestic consumers 65 million 

“These are debts accumulated over the first 11 months of 2009.” 

Despite this explanation, analysts interviewed by IWPR questioned why Barqi 
Tojik was withholding funds to the Russian-led generating company, especially 
given the importance of relations with Moscow. 

Georgy Petrov, a leading expert who heads the hydroelectricity unit at the 
national Institute for Water Problems, Hydroenergy and Ecology at the Tajik 
Academy, said it was implausible for Barqi Tojik to plead poverty. 

Petrov calculates that Barqi Tojik should be earning 240 dollars a year, based 
on the amount generated and its cost. 

“Barqi Tojik owes Sangtuda about nine million dollars, and is to pay three 
million a month. Is that a large amount of money?” he asked. “How can we risk 
an international confrontation if the company cannot pay three million out of 
its 240 million?” 

Parviz Mullojonov, a prominent political analyst, agreed that failure to treat 
Sangtuda’s investors well would reflect badly on Tajikistan as a whole. 

“This is the first large construction project we’ve had where the assets belong 
mainly to a foreign investor,” he explained. “This project needs to be kept 
apart from the economic payments system that typically operates in this country 
– people here think it’s normal for one enterprise to owe money to another. 
Tajik enterprises might put up with being owed money by their business 
partners, but a foreign investor will not stand for it. We need to remember 

The dispute comes at a time when Tajikistan is even more vulnerable to power 
shortages than usual. Last month, Uzbekistan announced it was withdrawing from 
the common electricity grid shared by the Central Asian republics. The decision 
will make it harder for the Tajiks to import electricity from Uzbekistan itself 
or in transit from other supplies like Turkmenistan; and to export its own 
electricity when it has a surplus over the warmer seasons.

In response, Tajikistan has said it will have to increase its hydroelectric 
generating capacity at the Kayrakkum reservoir on the river Syr Darya and Nurek 
on the Vakhsh, a tributary of the Amu Darya. However, the more water that goes 
through the turbines over the winter, the less will be available for release 
during the spring and summer, when Uzbekistan and Kazakstan need it for 
irrigation. Neither of those two countries will be happy about that.

“When Uzbekistan left the common energy grid, it broke off water and energy 
relations,” the deputy head of Barqi Tojik’s distribution department, Sergei 
Tkachenko, told IWPR. “Consequently, for the benefit of Tajikistan’s people and 
economy, our energy system will have to use its power stations to produce the 
maximum possible amount of electricity to provide for our. That will be our 
primary concern – but we are not [doing this] to take revenge against 

Even with power stations operating at full capacity, Tajikistan is likely to 
run short over the winter, especially if Sangtuda-1’s managers cut production 

“In a situation where Tajikistan is not receiving a single kilowatt from its 
neighbours, the stoppage of Sangtuda-1 can only aggravate the situation,” Barqi 
Tojik head Sanat Rahimov said at a press conference. 

Yodgori said tight rationing of electricity would be needed. 

“We must save every kilowatt. If Sangtuda stops, we will have to find these 
kilowatts ourselves. We will have to make up the shortfall by rationing 
electricity and completely cutting off non-payers,” he said.

Meanwhile, the best the average consumer can do is hope this winter will prove 
milder than it was two years ago, when Tajiks endured exceptionally cold 
temperatures and power blackouts. 

“God forbid it should be so cold again,” said Mavjuda, a resident of Darvoz 
district in the south. “At that time, we burned all the coal and firewood we 
had stored for the whole winter within the space of one month. We are hoping 
God will grant us a mild winter.” 

Olga Kochneva is the pseudonym of a journalist in Tajikistan.


Allegations that Uzbeks spied on Tajik uranium facility fit wider pattern of 
suspicion and mistrust.

By Parvina Khamidova in Dushanbe

A string of spy accusations involving neighbours Tajikistan and Uzbekistan is 
merely a reflection of the deeply trouble relationship between these Central 
Asian states, analysts say. 

In a trial in October, a court in the Soghd region of northern Tajikistan 
handed down sentences of up to 22 years to five officials at a uranium plant 
who were found to have passed secrets to Uzbekistan.

The spy ring allegedly involved top officials at the uranium plant in the town 
of Chkalovsk, including its director and the heads of its engineering, building 
and security departments. 

In a separate incident in late October, an Uzbekistan national was arrested in 
Chkalovsk and accused of passing sensitive information to Uzbek police. The 
Tajik security service, quoted by the Fergana.ru news agency, did not specify 
the nature of the information but said the man had passed himself off as a top 
intelligence officer.

The Chkalovsk plant was set up to supply locally-mined uranium to the Soviet 
power and defence industries, but work slowed almost to a halt after Tajikistan 
became independent in 1991. Efforts have been made to revive processing, but 
using highly radioactive waste material left over from the past and stored in 
dumps rather than freshly-mined uranium. 

Uzbekistan has a successful uranium industry of its own and is likely to be 
interested in its neighbour’s intentions. 

As one Tajik analyst who asked to remain anonymous said, accusations of 
espionage may well be true but should hardly come as a surprise. 

“All countries conduct intelligence work in territories of interest to them,” 
he said. “For instance, Russia, the United States and maybe some others conduct 
intelligence operations in Tajikistan in order to gather information.”

What sets these allegations apart is the implication that Uzbekistan is engaged 
in subversive activities in its smaller neighbour. The accusations also cut 
both ways – five people were convicted in a similar espionage trial in 
Uzbekistan in 2006, for example. 

Despite their geographical proximity, cultural similarity and the presence of a 
Tajik minority in Uzbekistan and vice versa, the two states have had arguably 
the most troubled relationship in post-Soviet Central Asia. 

On the political front, Tashkent has in the past accused its neighbour of 
failing to curb Islamic rebels who used Tajikistan as a launch-pad for raids in 
1999 and 2000. The Tajiks alleged Uzbek support for a 1998 coup attempt by 
rebel army commander Mahmud Khudoiberdiev. 

According to a leading Tajik political scientist, Parviz Mullojonov, “The 
fundamental reason for discord between the Central Asian states is that after 
they gained independence, each of them has been seeking its own place in the 
region. Uzbekistan aspires to the role of regional leader, as does Kazakstan. 
In turn, that is not welcomed by their neighbours. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan 
don’t want to play the role of vassals.” 

Even more fundamental is the dispute over water, and specifically Tajikistan’s 
plan to build more hydroelectric dams which the Uzbeks – living downstream on 
the Amu Darya waterway – say will starve them of water during the crucial 
growing season. 

A related set of disputes concern energy – the Tajiks are unhappy that the 
gas-rich Uzbeks pay nothing for water while charging them near the full 
commercial rate for fuel supplies. 

Last month, the Uzbeks announced their withdrawal from the integrated Central 
Asian electricity grid. Speaking at a press conference in Dushanbe on November 
23, Uzbek ambassador Shokasim Shoislamov made it fairly clear where the blame 
lay, hinting that the Tajiks were disrupting the shared grid by siphoning off 
electricity on the quiet.

Tashkent’s withdrawal from the common energy system will make it harder for the 
Tajiks to import electricity from Uzbekistan or in transit from Turkmenistan; 
and to export its own electricity when it has a surplus over the warmer seasons.

In response to the Uzbek move, Tajikistan has threatened to limit the amount of 
water reaching Uzbekistan along the Syr Darya river, saying it needs to fill up 
its reservoir at Kayrakkum in order to increase power production. 

“The water and energy issue plays a very major role in the power-struggle,” 
said Mullojonov. “Uzbekistan has always feared being dependent on the upstream 
states [Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan], and it will continue to do so. It will do 
anything to stop this happening.”

The animosity with which such disputes, ranging from water to espionage, are 
handled reflects the long-standing mistrust between the two states. 

Rajabi Mirzo, an independent journalist in Tajikistan, says the animosity is 
not felt between the average citizens of either country, but that “it’s there 
in the top echelons of power. And according to media reports, [Tajik president 
Imomali] Rahmon himself spoke about it during a meeting with journalists.”

Mirzo was referring to remarks attributed to President Rahmon during a meeting 
with local journalists on December 8, at which he is reported to have spoken in 
frank detail about the troubled Tajik-Uzbek relationship and his own dealings 
with President Islam Karimov. 

Rustam Haidarov, a research academic based in Dushanbe, says it is not uncommon 
for close neighbours to be fearful of one another.

“An external enemy generally becomes necessary when a country has social and 
economic problems,” he said. “The image of an enemy distracts people from 
domestic problems, and can be held responsible for most of these problems.”

Sayfullo Safarov, deputy director of the Centre for Strategic Studies in 
Tajikistan, insists the recent espionage trial must be viewed dispassionately 
and must not be allowed cloud diplomatic relations.

“Spy mania is a very bad ailment affecting the newly independent states. There 
are crimes and there are relations between states,” he said, suggesting that 
the two things should be kept separate.

Parvina Khamidova is Tajikistan editor for IWPR's EC-funded Human Rights 
Reporting Project.


New rules seem unworkable since most diplomats currently work in Russian and 
will find it hard to switch language.

By Yevgenia Kim in Bishkek

A ruling that Kyrgyzstan’s diplomats must use the official language, Kyrgyz, 
wherever possible has met with dismay from critics who say decreeing linguistic 
change is not enough to ensure that it actually happens. 

The decision was announced at a December 11 meeting of the Kyrgyz parliament, 
when amendments to the law on use of the state language were passed.

Until now, foreign embassies like other public institutions have conducted most 
of their business in Russian. But the government is now engaged on a drive to 
force officials to use Kyrgyz instead. 

It is only the latest in a series of campaigns since the Central Asian state 
gained independence in 1991 to promote the status and use of Kyrgyz in public 
life, which to date have had only partial success.

Diplomats, in particular, use Russian as a common language in dealings with 
other former Soviet states; and English or the language of their host country 
in the wider international community. Internal business and documentation is in 

Until now, the legal position has been that people can choose whether to 
conduct official communications in Kyrgyz – the “state language”, or Russian, 
which retained special status as an “official language”.

Now that is to change. The amended language law comes ahead of next year’s 
deadline for making Kyrgyz mandatory for use in official documents. Lack of 
preparation has meant the deadline has shifted more than once – initially it 
was set for 2000, later postponed to 2005 and now 2010. 

At the December 11 session, Almazbek Karimov of the governing Ak Jol party, who 
drafted the changes to the law, complained to his fellow parliamentarians that 
all civil servants except the diplomatic corps had made the switch to Kyrgyz. 

“They must not only conduct negotiations in Kyrgyz, but also receptions, 
meetings and other events in the Kyrgyz language,” he said.

Speaking in an earlier parliamentary debate on November 18, Asylbek Jeenbekov, 
representing the majority Ak Jol faction, said, “Experience has shown that 
officials will not learn the language unless there is legislation.” 

He stressed that the proposed legal changes were meant to encourage people to 
use Kyrgyz, not punish those who did not. 

The aim, he said, was that the law would prompt people “to start studying the 
language today, so that in five or ten years it is spoken perfectly”.

Diplomats will still be allowed to speak Russian on formal occasions, but only 
within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the broadest 
grouping of former Soviet states. What is less clear is whether the same 
applies to bilateral relations, for example whether a Kyrgyz diplomat will now 
be required to use an interpreter to talk to a Ukrainian counterpart, when both 
would be able to converse freely in Russian.

Kyrgyz diplomats, past and present, are wary of the implications of the 
language switch, saying there are all sorts of obstacles that have not been 
taken into account 

Roza Otunbaeva, a former foreign minister and ambassador and now a leading 
light in the opposition Social Democrats, said enacting the bill before the 
diplomatic service had the capacity to obey it was “putting the cart before the 

“Currently, 90 per cent of diplomatic staff are simply incapable of conducting 
negotiations and correspondence in Kyrgyz,” she said during the November 18 
debate. “How are they going to implement the law? In the diplomatic service, 
you cannot make mistakes; you have to weigh every word. Anyway, you cannot 
force someone to learn the state language by coercion.”

Like other commentators, Otunbaeva said Kyrgyzstan did not have enough 
translators and interpreters. 

At an earlier discussion in parliament on November 10, the current foreign 
minister Kadyrbek Sarbaev said that in places like China and Japan, there was 
simply no capacity to translate between Kyrgyz and local languages.

Kyrgyzstan’s ambassador to the United States, Zamira Sydykova, agrees that 
money needs to be put into language training. 

“We have very few qualified Kyrgyz translators. Funding will need to be 
allocated for their training,” she said. 

Kyrgyz has undergone something of a grassroots revival since independence, for 
demographic reasons. Ethnic Russians left in large numbers, while internal 
migration saw ethnic Kyrgyz moving from the countryside to the towns, and 
especially from southern areas to the north, where the Russian language 
traditionally had a stronger hold. 

As a result, the latest surveys show that in urban areas of Kyrgyzstan, the 
percentage of people who speak only Russian has slipped from 70 to 30 per cent 
since 2005. 

One of the changes to the law requires a knowledge of Kyrgyz as a condition of 
employment in the diplomatic service, and is being seen as potentially 
discriminatory against ethnic minorities. 

In reality, it is likely to have the greatest impact on the ethnic Kyrgyz who 
predominate in the diplomatic service. They are commonly come drawn from the 
educated elite and spend their working lives operating in Russian, whatever 
they speak at home. 

“The amendments contradict the constitution, article 15 of which stipulates 
that the state guarantees equality of rights irrespective of ethnicity and 
language,” said Pavel Dyatlenko, an analyst with the Polis Asia think-tank. 
“This law makes a knowledge of Kyrgyz compulsory.” 

Yevgenia Kim is an IWPR-trained journalist in Kyrgyzstan.


New rules designed to prevent money-laundering could be used to monitor and 
obstruct civil society groups.

By Dovlet Ovezov in Ashgabat

There are fears that new banking rules in Turkmenistan will make life even 
harder for the small number of non-government groups still operating in 

The Central Asian state’s parliament passed a law at the end of August setting 
out measures to prevent money-laundering and the funding of terrorism, and is 
expected to amend other pieces of legislation accordingly by the end of this 

A special agency is being set up to monitor transactions and report anything 
suspicious to the security services. It has sweeping powers to require banks to 
provide it with details of their clients’ accounts and transactions, and also 
to request information from other government institutions like the justice 
ministry and the customs and immigration agencies.

Any non-government organisation receiving foreign funding over a certain level 
– as yet unspecified – will be subject to investigation. The same applies if 
the NGO is deemed to be engaging in activities not explicitly envisaged in its 
founding documents.

The lack of clarity around these issues has alarmed local NGOs, which believe 
the regulations will be misused by the authorities in order to squeeze them out 
of existence, especially if they are working on topics regarded as politically 
suspect, like human rights. 

Tajigul Begmedova, who heads the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation, a human rights 
group based in Bulgaria, told IWPR that while every country needed laws to 
prevent illegal money flows, the danger in Turkmenistan was that they would 
become an instrument for monitoring and pressuring NGOs. 

“In an authoritarian state, an official only needs to find a pretext for the 
pressure to begin,” she said. “Especially given the fact that the authorities 
are not keen on the activities of NGOs.”

Officially-registered NGOs in Turkmenistan tend to be government-sponsored 
institutions working on behalf of women, children or war veterans, or else 
semi-commercial ventures.

Truly independent groups working on human rights, media or environmental issues 
are not encouraged. No independent NGO has been granted registration in the 
last five years, so such groups operate informally and keep a low profile. 

Members of such groups are under constant surveillance. Their phones are 
tapped, their emails screened, they are often summoned for questioning by the 
security services if they travel abroad, and may be placed under house arrest 
if a foreign delegation visits the country.

In this atmosphere of intimidation, signs that the authorities are about to 
trawl through bank accounts may be enough to scare some NGOs off applying for 
foreign grants.

An Ashgabat resident who has been working on a library project for which he has 
received a small grant said he did not want to face undergoing checks under 
counter-terrorism laws. 

“If that happens, I will abandon the project,” he said.” 

Others drew parallels with the kind of intrusive checks already carried out by 
the tax service, which they said placed any organisation under considerable 

“Our taxmen are a special breed,” said one activist in Ashgabat. “They do what 
they want. They may launch an inspection dating back ten years, when it’s 
impossible to prove anything; or they may lose documents and not return them 
for a year. And over the ten years I’ve worked with an NGO, I have seen all the 
techniques they use for extorting money.”

An analyst in the Turkmen capital said much of the uncertainty about the latest 
legal changes stemmed from lack of clarity about how much income an NGO had to 
receive before its accounts became subject to scrutiny and investigation. 

However, a lawyer from the International Centre for Non-Commercial Law in 
Turkmenistan, did not share this concern, saying it was just a matter of time 
before the authorities announced the minimum funding level for checks. 

“There’s no reason to worry,” he said, adding that with the legal framework in 
place, the new financial agency would specify the precise limit, below which 
NGOs would be exempt from scrutiny.

Dovlet Ovezov is a pseudonym for a journalist in Turkmenistan.

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