Tag Archives: security

Georgia updates its 10-year military development plant

JULY 22 2021 (The Bulletin) — Georgia’s ministry of defence presented an updated 10-year plan for its military, a plan that includes building 1,050 apartments to give to soldiers on the outskirts of Tbilisi. Georgia also wants to buy more javelin anti-tank shoulder missiles from the United States and start production of mortar bombs. 

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— This story was published in issue 493 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on July 22 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Worried about the Taliban, Tajikistan mobilise entire army

DUSHANBE/JULY 22 2021 (The Bulletin) — Tajikistan mobilised its entire army and put it on “high alert” for the first time since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union as worries intensified about a move north into Central Asia by the Taliban.

Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan also mobilised their armies and Russia said that it was sending extra military hardware to its base in Tajikistan. 

Media quoted a military source in Tajikistan as saying that the Taliban now controls around 80% of Afghanistan’s border with Tajikistan. It has pounced on Afghan government military weakness since the US started to withdraw its forces in May.

In a statement, the Tajik ministry of defence said that it had ordered the mobilisation of all its 100,000 regular soldiers, and another 130,000 reservists. Inspecting some of these forces in Dushanbe, Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon said that the Tajik military had to be ready to defend its borders.

“The situation in neighbouring Afghanistan, especially in the northern regions bordering with our country, remains very difficult and uncertain. The situation is getting more complicated day by day and even hour after hour,” he said.

Earlier this month, hundreds of Afghan government soldiers fled across the Uzbek and Tajik borders to escape the Taliban which now controls most of the northern section of Afghanistan, including the important border crossings into Central Asia, for the first time.

Also in Tajikistan, media said that Russia was sending an extra 17 BMP-2s to its base. The BMP-2 is a cross between an armoured personnel carrier and a tank that Russian infantry favour when deploying into battle. The Kommersant newspaper also reported that Russia had offered the US use of its base as a listening post to spy on the Taliban in Afghanistan. 

Elsewhere in Central Asia, news leaked out of Turkmenistan of a road accident that killed 30 soldiers when, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a military convoy collided with a truck and another vehicle. The RFE/RL source said the scene was “horrible”.

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— This story was published in issue 493 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on July 22 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Skirmishes intensify between Azerbaijan and Armenia

JULY 20 2021 (The Bulletin) — Militaries of both Azerbaijan and Armenia reported that skirmishes along their shared borders had intensified. Some reports even said that heavy weapons had been brought up from the rear. Analysts said that the visit to Moscow by Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev may have sparked off the intensified skirmishes. With the help of Turkey, Azerbaijan defeated Armenia in a war last year for control of Nagorno-Karabakh.

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— This story was published in issue 493 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on July 22 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

US talks up new Afghanistan group with Uzbekistan and Pakistan

TASHKENT/JULY 16 2021 (The Bulletin) –The US heralded a new “quad regional support” group for Afghanistan after a meeting in Tashkent with officials from Uzbekistan and Pakistan.

Since the US began to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan in May, the Taliban has expanded across the country, leaving the US struggling to project a different narrative.

It has previously said that Central Asia should play an important role in the rehabilitation of Afghanistan and with successful trials of a trade route between Pakistan and Uzbekistan, which crossed Afghanistan before the advance of the Taliban, US diplomats are now promoting this axis.

“Recognising the historic opportunity to open flourishing interregional trade routes, the parties intend to cooperate to expand trade, build transit links, and strengthen business-to-business ties,” a US spokesman said.

Despite the upbeat rhetoric, though, the reality on the ground may dash any real hopes of increased trade between Pakistan and Uzbekistan, via Afghanistan.

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— This story was published in issue 493 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on July 22 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Interview: Gold-plated resiliance in a tough year

>> Artem Volynets, the CEO of AIM-listed Chaarat Gold, had to deal wtih war and a coup in 2020, on top of the global pandemic.

JUNE 16 2021 (The Bulletin) — A global pandemic meant a tough 2020 for most people but for Artem Volynets, the CEO of AIM-listed gold miner Chaarat Gold, it was just one issue that he had to deal with. He also had to navigate a war and a coup.

“Yes, it was a complicated time,” he told The Bulletin over lunch in central London, flashing a pearl-white, relaxed, smile. 

“But in many ways it made us stronger as a company.”

Chaarat Gold is the owner of the Kapan gold mine in southeast Armenia and two gold concessions in Kyrgyzstan, Tulkubash and Kyzyltash. In 2020, Armenia lost a war to Azerbaijan for the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh and in Kyrgyzstan, a coup in October overthrew the government.

Volynets said that a third of his 1,000-person workforce at the Soviet-era Kapan gold mine was called up for active duty.

“Even so, if anything our reputation in the region was strengthened by the war,” he said. “We were the ones paying the taxes, keeping production going and jobs open.”

Chaarat Gold bought the Kapan mine from Russia’s Polymetal in 2019 for $55m, a deal that Volynets said had proved to be good value. 

He dodged discussing criticism of Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan for allegedly dragging his feet over clearing protesters who have blocked access to another foreign-owned gold mine at Amulsar, but he was keen to discuss the expropriation in Kyrgyzstan of the Kumtor gold mine, the biggest in the country, from its Toronto-based owners, Centerra Gold.

Western investors in Bishkek have now described Kyrgyzstan as an “investment pariah” but Volynets was more circumspect.

“It’s very much an isolated incident that has to do with one particular foreign investor and one particular project,” he said. “We have been assured that we have no problems.”

Still, the noise around the expropriation of Kumtor has made life more difficult for Volynets and Chaarat Gold. Last month it said that raising finance for its Tulkubash project had slowed and that its first gold production was now delayed by a year to the second half of 2023.

In 2018, Chaarat Gold had offered to buy Kumtor, but Centerra Gold had turned down the offer.

“We’re not interested in it any more but we are still looking around at other FSU projects,” Volynets said.

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— This story was published in issue 48 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 16 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Erdogan flaunts his power in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

BAKU/JUNE 15 2021 (The Bulletin) — Turkish Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan showed off the influence he has built up in the region by visiting a town captured by Azerbaijan in a war against Armenia last year and by hosting Kyrgyz Pres. Sadyr Japarov for only his second visit to a foreign leader outside Central Asia since grabbing power in October.

With Azerbaijani Pres. Ilham Aliyev by his side Mr Erdogan toured Shusha, Azerbaijan’s biggest trophy from its victory over Armenia for control of Nagorno-Karabakh, in what some analysts described as a victory lap.

Turkey helped Azerbaijan in the war, supplying drones and military advisers. In return, it now has a permanent military presence in Azerbaijan and can count on Baku’s staunch loyalty.

“We call on everyone, who has an influence on the region, to see the facts, acknowledge the Azerbaijani people’s victory and look to the future,” Mr Erdogan said after signing the ‘Shusha Declaration’ with Mr Aliyev. Armenia criticised his visit to Shusha as provocative.

On June 9, Mr Japarov, the Kyrgyz president, had flown to Ankara to meet with Mr Erdogan. Other than two meetings with Russia’s Pres. Vladimir Putin, this was his first trip outside Central Asia since taking power last year. At their meeting, the two leaders talked up relations and the threat from Gulenists, followers of an exiled cleric that Mr Erdogan blames for a failed coup in 2016. 

There was no mention, though, of Orhan Inandi, a Kyrgyz-Turkish Gulenist businessman and educator who disappeared in Bishkek in May. His wife has said that Turkish security forces abducted him and are holding him in the Turkish embassy in Bishkek.

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— This story was published in issue 48 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 16 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Azerbaijan swaps POWs for Armenian landmine map

JUNE 12 2021 (The Bulletin) — In a deal brokered by Georgia and the US, Azerbaijan exchanged 15 Armenian POWs for a map from Armenia of landmines laid in one part of Nagorno-Karabakh during a six-week war last year. Armenia has said that Azerbaijan holds 200 POWs, although Azerbaijani officials have said that the number is far smaller. Last week, a landmine killed two Azerbaijani journalists and an official.

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— This story was published in issue 48 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 16 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Kocharyan promises to secure Armenia’s borders if he wins election

JUNE 7 2021 (The Bulletin) — Robert Kocharyan, Armenia’s former president and now the head of an opposition party that is trying to unseat PM Nikol Pashinyan, promised to secure the country’s borders if he won a parliamentary election on June 20. Armenia’s election will shape the country for the next few years. 

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— This story was published in issue 487 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 9 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Abducted eductionalist held in Turkish embassy in Bishkek, says wife

JUNE 6 2021 (The Bulletin) — Orhan Inandi, the Turkish educator and opposition figure, is being held captive at the Turkish embassy in Bishkek, his wife, Reyhan, said in a Twitter video. Mr Inandi disappeared on May 31 in an apparent abduction. His supporters have said that Turkish security forces kidnapped him. Turkish Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames supporters of the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen for a failed coup attempt in 2016 and has vowed to track them down. Mr Inandi, who holds Turkish and Kyrgyz citizenship, is head of the Gulenist network of schools and universities in Kyrgyzstan.

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— This story was published in issue 487 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 9 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Landmine kills Azerbaijani reporters in Nagorno-Karabkakh

JUNE 4 2021 (The Bulletin) — A landmine blew up and killed two Azerbaijani journalists and a local official in Nagorno-Karabakh. The men were travelling in a truck when it hit the mine. Four other people were injured. Azerbaijan has blamed Armenia for the deaths because it said that it had not handed over maps showing areas that it had mined during a war for control of Nagorno-Karabakh last year.

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— This story was published in issue 487 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 9 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021