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Syrian Peace Talks Open in Astana, Focus on Strengthening Cease-Fire

5 hours 42 min ago

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Two days of international talks in Astana to extend the cease-fire in Syria brokered Dec. 29 by Russia and Turkey opened Jan. 23. The talks are expected to pave the way for Feb. 8 negotiations in Geneva under the UN auspices.

Monday’s meeting is the largest gathering to date in terms of parties in the six-year Syrian conflict. For the first time, both the Government and the armed opposition groups agreed to sit down at the same table.

The Syrian government and Syria’s armed opposition, delegations from Russia, Iran and Turkey and UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura attended the meeting held behind closed doors. U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan George Krol attended the talks as an observer.

Commenting on the results of the first public session of talks, the head of the Syrian opposition delegation Mohammad Alloush noted that he hoped the negotiations would result in a truce that will help solve some humanitarian problems in Syria.

“The truce should show that it really works before we move on to other issues,” he said, tass.ru reports.

Meanwhile, international meeting participants were expected to agree on a document produced during the talks, which are scheduled to end at noon Jan. 24.

“The delegations of the guarantor countries, with the assistance of the UN, are working on the draft of the final document of the meeting, which would indicate the main points of agreements reached during the talks,” according to sources familiar with the process.  It was expected that the talks would focus on the strengthening of the cease-fire regime and on the humanitarian aspects.

Permanent Representative to UN Bashar al-Jaafari leads the Syrian government delegation for the Astana talks. Representatives of approximately 15 rebel groups represent the Syrian opposition. Turkey and Iran, the guarantor countries attending the peace talks, are represented by the deputy ministers of foreign affairs. Special Presidential Envoy for Syrian Settlement Alexander Lavrentyev heads Russia’s delegation.

The idea to hold the talks in the Kazakh capital was initiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin in mid-December. Later, during a telephone conversation with Putin and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Kazakhstan expressed his country’s willingness to host the talks in Astana.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Kairat Abdrakhmanov opened the talks by expressing Kazakhstan’s willingness to assist all parties to the talks and by reading a greeting from Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

“The complex situation in Syria is drawing global attention. We must admit that the bloodshed that continues to persist in Syria for approximately six years has brought nothing but misery and hardship to the holy region regarded as an intersection of different civilisations and cultures,” Nazarbayev said in his statement.

“Kazakhstan, as a peace-loving state and a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, is interested in strengthening and promoting security and stability in the Middle East. Today’s meeting is a clear manifestation of the international community’s efforts directed to a peaceful settlement of the situation in Syria. Kazakhstan believes that the only way to find a solution to the Syrian crisis is through negotiations based on mutual trust and understanding,” the Kazakh President continued.

“It is not a coincidence that our country was selected as the host for today’s negotiations. As you know, two rounds of talks between several opposition groups were held in Astana in 2015. In order to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian refugees, we have allocated over $700,000 and have recently provided 500 tonnes of food as humanitarian assistance. I am confident that the Astana meeting will create the necessary conditions for all concerned parties to find a suitable solution to the Syrian crisis within the framework of the Geneva process under the UN auspices and will make a worthy contribution to promoting peace and stability in Syria,” Abdrakhmanov quoted the President’s greeting.

In his own remarks, broadcast to the press centre where approximately 300 foreign and 100 Kazakh reporters gathered, Abdrakhmanov also pointed out Kazakhstan’s experience in easing international tensions elsewhere.

De Mistura thanked Abdrakhmanov for hosting the meeting and greeted participants.

“The Syrian people are desperately in need of ending this violence, and they are looking forward to relief from their own suffering and a path out of this conflict and to a real future for all of them, men, women and children in dignity. I know how proud Syrians are and how proud they are to be Syrian and of their beautiful country, a country that has made historically so many important contributions to human civilisation,” he said.

Six years of war in Syria has turned the country into ruins, killing half a million people and driving the population to seek sanctuary in neighbouring countries. From the beginning of the Syrian crisis, Kazakhstan has been urging the international community to seek a diplomatic solution, believing that military methods only exacerbate the situation. Kazakhstan has always been ready to act as a neutral intermediary for all forces involved in the conflict.

“Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev played an important role in mending relations between Russia and Turkey after the plane incident on the Turkish-Syrian border. I think it is no exaggeration to say that these peace talks might not happen without the conflict resolution efforts initiated by Nursultan Nazarbayev last year,” Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko said at a press briefing held before the talks.

In May 2015, Kazakhstan hosted the first round of talks with representatives of the Syrian opposition committed to finding a political solution to the crisis. Later in October, the parties agreed to establish corridors for safe passage of refugees during the second round of the negotiations.

Representatives of Russia, Iran and Turkey also held a trilateral meeting in the Kazakh capital Jan. 22, and reached a common ground on some points.  In addition, Abdrakhmanov met with Bashar al-Jaafari and Staffan de Mistura ahead of the meeting.

Nazarbayev had a separate meeting with de Misturaat the Akorda on Jan. 23. On behalf of the UN Secretary-General, his Special Envoy for Syria expressed gratitude to the Kazakh President for providing the venue for the Syrian talks and added that the UN is interested in the success of the talks.

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Young Kazakh Entrepreneur Set to Build Wine Culture

16 hours 16 min ago

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – A young Kazakh-born entrepreneur is building a thriving wine exporting business in Spain and striving to make fine Spanish wine available for Kazakh customers.

Shukhrat Khakimov

Shukhrat Khakimov was only 21 and barely spoke any foreign language when he left Kazakhstan in 2009 to study winemaking in Angers (France). The Temirtau native borrowed 600,000 tenge (US$1,800) from parents and friends and took a student loan to pay his expenses and the tuition necessary to earn a master’s degree in the wine business. Throughout his university years, he waited tables, worked in supermarkets and took multiple freelance and clerical jobs to make the ends meet.

As part of the graduate programme, he lived in Spain (Valencia), Italy (Piacenza), Hungary and Switzerland. Khakimov met his future wife Gabriela in France and after graduation they moved to her hometown of Alicante (Spain).

Khakimov is now a co-founder and head of Winexfood (www.winexfood.com), a wine exporting company based in Spain. The self-made entrepreneur sat down with The Astana Times to share his story.

Tell us how you started Winexfood.

I co-founded the company in 2012 together with Spanish investors. The original idea was to export food and agricultural products from Spain, but now we mainly focus on exporting organic Spanish wine and spirits. Initially, the company acted as a trading agent between Spanish producers and Russia’s and Kazakhstan’s markets. Later, we changed our strategy and became a broker firm. Now, we have grown into an exporting firm that has its own trademarks.

There are 5,000 wine producers in Spain and so many more winemaking countries and a great number of distributors. Withstanding the competition and winning a contract with retailers and customers is not an easy task. It was hard at first. When people heard that we were agents, they weren’t impressed, mildly speaking, because the word “agent” had a bad connotation in the 1990’s. The agents were the connecters between buyers and sellers. What we do is different. In just about three years, we earned a good reputation in the industry, returned all the initial investments and became a profitable business.

What does the company do now?

We are a small firm and everyone here is multi-functional. We outsource all the non-core activities like legal, accounting and print services. Our aim is to have fewer assets and increase turnover. The turnover in 2016 totaled over 1.5 million bottles. Our philosophy is building a debt- and loan-free business. We have never taken any loans.

We are a Spanish company and we focus on developing Spanish products. We export naturally fermented wine, beer and distillate. Our commercial catalogue has more than 500 references.

We work with two types of producers. The first ones are small family-owned businesses. They make high-quality, excellent HoReCa (Hotel/Restaurant/ Café) wines. We do not interrupt their unique winemaking technologies that have been historically shaped and improved. We help them with branding and marketing.

The second type of producers is the wine factories that make wines for retail. We create new products to meet the specific needs of retailers, supermarkets, airlines, passenger train carriers and other clients. We first conduct market research; identify local taste preferences, like the preferred sweetness and mineral content in wines. The technologist identifies the right fermentation method. Since recently, we work with several universities in Madrid, Valencia and France to run the necessary laboratory tests. Our products are entirely organic and contain no additives. The team of winemakers ensures this by supervising the quality of grapes and other ingredients. Not only do we monitor the entire wine production, we also oversee the production of bottles and stickers.

What is the company’s mission?

The company’s mission is to make quality wine available to ordinary customers with the minimal profit margin for us. That is why we offer the best value for money and most competitive prices on the market.

I have a special relation with Kazakhstan. I am not interested in mass deliveries for retail there. I want to focus on strengthening and improving the catering businesses. Spain has a great choice of high quality wines. These are not as cheap as wines for retail. They are historically owned and made by families. I want to make these exquisite wines available and affordable for as many people as possible in Kazakhstan.

We also want to ensure these wines are not duplicated on the market. We don’t want to deliver the same types of wine to several restaurants in one city. Restaurants should be interested in having a unique signature wine, one that is not to be found on the wine carts in the nearby store or restaurant in next block. We want to build this type of awareness and mentality among Kazakh caterers.

What are your markets for export?  

In addition to Kazakhstan and Russia, we export to Japan, China, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, France, Belgium, Germany, Romania and Ukraine. We haven’t yet opened the markets of Africa and the Americas, but that is to come. It’s an evolutionary process.

I never thought I would be where I am now. I never thought I would be a winemaker. But when the opportunity arrived, I took the chance and that was the most important decision I’ve made.

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Gov’t to Spend $27.1 million for Development of Kentau Infrastructure

16 hours 49 min ago

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

KENTAU – The government is going to finance Kentau from the national and regional budgets to the amount of 9 billion tenge (US$27.1 million) this year. The funds will help solve several social and economic problems, create new jobs and improve standards of living and well-being of its habitants.

Akim (Governor) of the South Kazakhstan region Zhanseit Tuimebayev believes such large-scale financing of Kentau will not only contribute to the development of the city, but also bring benefit for the whole country.

The funds will help solve many long-standing problems. For example, 400 million tenge (US$1.2 million) will be used to construct two 5-storey apartment buildings. Another 100 million tenge (US$301,500) will be allocated to construct dormitories where Kentau college students will live.

The city administration is going to spend 541 million tenge (US$1.6 million) for the reconstruction of the water supply system, which eventually will solve the difficulty of supplying high quality drinking water. The Kentau administration is going to finish construction of an automatic gas control station designed for the supply of natural gas from the main gas pipeline Beineu-Bozoi-Shymkent.

Problems of the city and ways to solve them were discussed by Governor Tuimebayev at a recent meeting in the city. In particular, he focused on the fact that Kentau, located 150 kilometres northwest from the regional capital of Shymkent, has not organised any business support and development programmes. The governor emphasised that three projects in the amount of 900 million tenge (US$2.7 million) were not included in the industrial map for various reasons. Tuimebayev concluded that the work of local executive bodies for the development of entrepreneurship and creation of new jobs in the city is not conducted at the proper level.

The head of the region said that the local authorities should pay more attention to healthcare and employment, sanitary cleaning and landscaping, maintenance of engineering infrastructure and work on revival of the mining field. Tuymebayev said that business people can build small shops and factories in the city, establishing partnership relations with the city’s largest companies, such as Kentau Transformer Plant.

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Citizens’ Registration Law Draws Controversy, Confusion

Sun, 2017-01-22 23:58

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Amendments to migration legislation on citizens’ temporary registration entered into force this month in Kazakhstan, evoking disputes among the population all over the country. New rules are supposed to tighten laws against terrorism. According to Galina Sarsenova, deputy head of the Migration Police Department, the absence of registration may result in the issuing of a penalty charge notice for both owners and renters starting from February.

Photo credit: 24.kz

“New amendments oblige property owners to register people residing in his or her housing. There are also administrative responsibilities of citizens living in the housing without registration. We believe that this approach will solve the problem of ‘rubber apartments’ and eliminate the problem of citizens living without registration,” she said.

She also clarified the mechanism on determining the amount of a penalty. For example, an individual will have to pay 15,883 tenge (US$48) for failure to register as an inhabitant. Penalty for housing owners will be at least 22,690 tenge (US$68.65).

The new rules prompted a strong public response with large queues at the Public Service Centres (known as TsONs) and indignation in social networks. However, officials assured that not much has changed. The only change refers to shortening the term for temporary registration from three to one month. Head of Migration Police Department of Kazakh Ministry of Internal Affairs Serik Sainov considers discontent in the social network to be unjustified and believes that temporary registration can help ordinary Kazakh citizens, according to informburo.kz.

“The new rules oblige property owners to register people living in the flat or house. Previously, penalty charge was issued for a person living without registration for more than three months. Now, this term is shortened to one month. People do not register and live without appropriate documents for years. Now, homeowners are obliged by the law and people rushed to the TsONs. However, citizens will not be fined for absence of registration until Feb. 7,” Sainov explained.

According to Sainov, one person can have only one temporary registration and one constant registration. Temporary registration is almost equivalent to constant registration and is valid for getting public or health services and for applying for school or kindergarten placement.

“People can apply for registration at any TsON of the city, regardless of place of residence. This greatly simplifies the process,” he added.

Given a large flow of people, medical units were also opened at TsONs to provide assistance if necessary.  In addition, pregnant women and people with limited abilities can receive preferential service in special windows or use in-home service by calling 1414.

Heated debates on the amendments and short terms given for registration were seen on social media. Well-known lawyer Dzhokhar Utebekov compared the new rules to ‘serfdom’ and criticised the work of lawmakers pointing to serious gaps in the legislative document.

“President Nazarbayev instructed the government to draft a law to combat extremism. As for the population registration, he said: ‘The government needs to speed up the work to create an integrated migration control system based on modern technologies.’ I think everyone would be very glad to see a modern and synchronous population database. The President did not charge to introduce a temporary registration. In a couple of weeks, a government bill, which said nothing about ‘integrated system’, was submitted to expert examination. However, it featured a double compulsory registration. Now I wonder who gave birth to this wild idea? Who is the author?” said Utebekov in a Facebook post about new rules.

He also posted a list of frequently asked questions about temporary registration and answered them.

At the government meeting, Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev criticized the work of the Ministry of Internal Affairs on explaining the new changes and instructed to hold a large information campaign to explain amendments and to make the registration process more efficient at the centres.

Later, Kazakh Minister of Information and Communication Dauren Abayev announced Jan. 17 about the introduction of registration services in the e-government website to shorten queues at TsONs and facilitate registration of citizens.

 

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75.2 Percent of Public Facilities Can Now Accommodate People with Disabilities, Say Officials

Sun, 2017-01-22 23:54

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Roughly 75 percent of public facilities have been adapted to accommodate people with disabilities under the country’s 2012-2018 Action Plan, Healthcare and Social Development Vice Minister Svetlana Zhakupova announced at the recent Coordination Council regular meeting at the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development. Zhakupova added that much still needs to be done.

“Currently 27,800 infrastructure facilities were registered and among them 17,000 objects are in need of adaptation for persons with disabilities while 11,000 facilities have already been adapted. Three-thousand-nine road signs and signals were installed near the organisations assisting persons with disabilities and 155 pedestrian crossings were equipped with sound devices in 2016,” said Zhakupova.

Personal assistant services and professional sign language interpreters are annually provided for about 16,000 people and free transportation services provided for 35,000 people by Invataxi service.

Zhakupova also announced that the government has made it easier for citizens with disabilities to apply for benefits. Automated services at medical and social departments allow citizens to apply for the establishment of a disability, special benefits and receive an individual rehabilitation programme. These services were provided for 28,000 people last year.

Technical rehabilitation aids except prosthetic and orthopaedic products were delivered to 14,000 people residing in rural areas as part of the agreement between the Healthcare and Social Development Ministry and Kazpost. More than 122,000 people belonging to this category were placed in permanent jobs.

Shyrak Women with Disabilities Association Chairperson Lyazzat Kaltayeva presented the results of the Advisory Institute on Disability and Public Monitoring of Disability Rights at the Coordination Council meeting. Vice Minister of Culture and Sports Aktoty Raiymkulova spoke about measures for the participation of citizens in the cultural and sporting life of the society.

The Coordination Council in the field of social protection of people with physical challenges is an advisory body of the government. It was founded to develop proposals and recommendations on issues of social protection of people with disabilities, ensure interaction of central and local executive bodies, organisations and public associations on issues of social protection and create equal opportunities for life and integration into society.

The council consists of representatives of national and regional associations for the physically challenged.

 

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Astana Enhances Cooperation with Moscow, Prepares for Syria Talks

Sat, 2017-01-21 02:44

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov paid his first visit to Moscow Jan. 20 at the invitation of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. It was also the newly-appointed foreign minister’s initial foreign trip on a bilateral basis. Following the talks, Abdrakhmanov and Lavrov gave a joint press conference where they commented on the outcome of the negotiations, as well as on the upcoming Astana talks on Syria.

Kairat Abdrakhmanov and Sergey Lavrov

Abdrakhmanov opened his speech by thanking his counterpart for the invitation and the warm and friendly welcome Russia extended to the Kazakh delegation.

“I’m especially glad that my visit to Russia is held in the year of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation,” he said.

The sides discussed a wide range of issues of bilateral and multilateral cooperation and exchanged views on topical issues of the regional and international agenda.

Lavrov noted Kazakhstan is Russia’s ally, good neighbour and strategic partner. The interaction between the countries, in his words, is an important factor in ensuring the progressive socio-economic development of Kazakhstan and Russia and sustaining stability in the Central Asian region.

“In the field of bilateral relations, we praised the legal framework which consists of more than 300 contracts and agreements. Most of them work efficiently,” he said.

Abdrakhmanov noted that during the years of independence Kazakhstan and Russia not only preserved their ties, but also learned a new way to build their relations based on the principles of equality and mutually-beneficial partnership.

“The leading role in strengthening the strategic partnership between Kazakhstan and Russia is attached to the regular meetings and talks between the heads of our states. Only last year, the presidents of Kazakhstan and Russia held eleven meetings, both bilaterally and on various international and regional platforms,” he added.

He also highlighted that Russia and Kazakhstan have long-term strategic projects in all sectors of the economy. For instance, a large-scale Kazakh-Russian business forum was conducted within the 13th forum on interregional cooperation held Oct. 4 in Astana with the participation of the heads of the two states. Forty-seven bilateral documents worth more than $3 billion were signed during the event.

“Our two countries have established an intense political dialogue and built deep economic relations. All spheres of cooperation are effectively developing,” said Abdrakhmanov.

In the context of Kazakhstan beginning its tenure Jan. 1 as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the two sides discussed cooperation within the UN’s main political body, as well as within regional organisations such as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA).

“I would like to note that the election of our country [as UNSC non-permanent member] is evidence of a broad international recognition of the active role Kazakhstan and President Nazarbayev play in resolving the important global issues of peace and security,” Abdrakhamanov added.

Other key topics included ensuring global and regional security, the talks on Syria, the situation in Afghanistan and other pressing issues on the international agenda.

Following the discussions, Abdrakhmanov and Lavrov signed a cooperation plan between the foreign ministries for 2017-2018, a “road map” of interaction between the countries, as Abdrakhmanov put it.

Speaking at the press conference, Abdrakhmanov emphasised that hosting the talks aimed at bringing peace to Syria is a great honour for Kazakhstan.

“We consider the meeting in Astana as another contribution of Kazakhstan to the Syrian settlement process, which is taking place in Geneva under the auspices of the UN,” he said.

He added intensive preparations are being held in the Kazakh capital. Complex measures are being taken, including organisational and protocol issues, logistics, accommodation and security.

Lavrov noted Kazakhstan has sought from the beginning to contribute to the efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis. The main purpose has been to bring representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR) and the fragmented opposition to the negotiating table, he said, adding the armed opposition has not been represented in the process until now.

“From the very beginning of these efforts, when it came to deciding on where to continue the process of establishing relations between the government and the armed opposition, all the participants mentioned the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, as one of the most suitable places. The government and all opposition groups considered this place as the best possible,” said Lavrov.

Kazakhstan has previously served as a mediator in resolving regional and global conflicts, noted Abdrakhmanov, evoking the country’s crucial role in mending relations between Russia and Turkey last year.

“You have witnessed the role that Kazakh President Nazarbayev has played in the rapprochement of our two partners,” he added.

The meeting on Syria is scheduled for Jan. 23. Representatives of the SAR and opposition groups, as well as Iran, Russia, Turkey and the UN, are expected to attend, while the United States is also invited. Kazakhstan is offering a platform for the talks and will not be participating in the negotiations.

 

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Akmola Region Takes Steps to Improve Health Services, Says Health Administration Head

Sat, 2017-01-21 00:42

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

 

The head of the Akmola Public Health Administration Gulnara Kulusheva answers questions about the state of affairs in the region’s healthcare system.

Gulnara Kulusheva

Quality Department for Healthcare Services recently noted an extremely unpleasant thing. It turned out that there are so-called ‘carminative’ diseases caused by senseless attitude of doctors towards patients?

There exists a problem of mercy, compassion and participation in the fate of a patient. Believe me, one would scarcely ever want to admit that, but the facts are stubborn things, and it is better to talk about them. By keeping silent, we hide the medical unkindness; therefore, it can give the new seedlings. It is important to return to our practice the “procedure” when a patient can be treated by a word as well.

 

What measures do you take?

You can be sure, the severest ones, despite the lack of doctors, in egregious cases we show the door. I am consumed with another idea: mercy and compassion cannot be brought up within a day, month or even a year. Whether it may be present or be lacking at all, therefore, one should ask himself/herself before choosing the most humane specialty in the world: can you treat by a word? For any doctor, it is the most important rule, what is more, for the whole life.

 

You mentioned shortage of doctors… Has the problem been solved?

It is in process and quite successfully. We have decreased the shortage of obstetricians and gynaecologists, anaesthesiologists and neonatologists. The healthcare department and local executive bodies are working closely. The Oblast Akim Sergey Kulagin instructed the akims of districts and cities of Kokshetau and Stepnogorsk to send 120 school graduates a year to study at the medical academy. At the expense of the local budget, 170 students get a profession in medical institutions of the country. In the current year, 341 experts arrived in the region, among them were 64 doctors and 277 nurses.

 

Life has become longer. To whom should the credit go?

I think, to everybody. The population, so to speak, has become more careful with its own health. Gyms are built in our region, and still there is shortage of them, people go skiing, jogging, walking and swimming. Ninety percent of health is formed by a person and only 10 percent accounts for medical assistance. Such statistics are observed in developed European countries, but we are just beginning to follow this path and learning by our personal experience that a healthy lifestyle is good and bad habits are bad.

Life has become longer due to contemporary medical equipment as well, which provides not only qualitative diagnostics but also helps to identify diseases at an early stage. Achievements in this area are impressive. Let us consider the latest know-how. Medical equipment was purchased for hospitals providing cardiac care for more than 100 million tenge, for obstetrics and childhood – for 140.4 million tenge, for tertiary patient care by a city hospital in our regional capital Kokshetau  – for 22 million tenge, additionally 73.4 million tenge (US$220,828) was laid down for 2017. Annually, we update the material base of Regional Oncologic Dispensary, Primary Health Care and Regional Hospitals No. 1 and 2.

Recently, we have started to attract experts not only from national-level clinics, but also from near and far abroad. In October 2016 alone, we held four workshop sessions with their participation. Thus, a Lithuanian obstetrician-gynaecologist, Professor Linas Rovas, made a three-day visit to the Akmola Regional Perinatal Center. Every day, he held theoretical and practical training in obstetrics and gynaecology and foetus cardiotocography. There were also planned and emergency surgeries. Task number one for all of us is to eliminate maternal mortality. And we are solving it through inviting international authorities, thus raising the responsibility and professionalism of the local doctors.

We have successfully held a two-day workshop session in paediatric cardiosurgery in the regional hospital. The team of leading doctors from Almaty and Kokshetau did a surgery on a child’s heart. We were preparing three little patients for surgery during a year. In 2016, 11 children were operated on. Since 2008, from the opening of the cardiac surgery department, in total 50 children with congenital heart disease were operated on. The cost of one such surgery amounts to 2.2 million tenge. Akmola citizens take such service free of charge within the guaranteed volume of free medical care. The facility for diseases has registered about 900 children diagnosed with congenital heart disease, 145 of them need surgical aggression, and they will certainly receive such aid.

It is important to have a modern cancer diagnosis. Some patients after learning about their cancer diagnosis, did not entirely trust local experts. There were cases when those were wrong, and the treatment was not so effective. So they went to Russia, Germany, Israel, and now, when they return from there, they say “we have everything at home; we do not know why we went there.” Moreover, foreign oncologists are surprised with the availability of high-end drugs. For example, one package of pellet chemotherapy costs 2,000 dollars, in Kazakhstan, patients receive these drugs free of charge.

Our oncologists are not in need almost in all positions. The regional Dispensary has recently acquired specialised expensive equipment. Now, transurethral resection of a urinary bladder tumour can be carried out in the native walls. The workshop for local surgeons was held by physician-onco-urologist from the Kazakh Research Institute of Oncology and Radiology in Almaty Magzhan Kossanov. In Kazakhstan, such operations have been done for 15 years. And now, formerly unique medical services have shifted to regions. The peculiarity of this minimally invasive surgery is that it is performed endoscopically.

There was a workshop session in Kokshetau City Hospital No.1, where on Oct. 29, the Kokshetau team of doctors, together with the head of Gynaecological Department of the National Scientific Centre Ardak Akhmetzhanov performed endoscopic surgery in three patients with hysteromyoma. Why didn’t such surgeries take place before? There was no equipment.

 

What can you say about the medical drugs provision for dispensary patients? I recently heard that with Kulusheva’s coming to the post, at last, the order was established.

It sounds dramatic. When money is allocated by the national government, region, you can only manage them competently. There were complaints; now they are a rare exception. National health care has advanced forward in drug provision as well. Before the cost of drugs contained in a special subsidised list of medicine was paid for by the state and half by the patient. But today, the medical drugs provision of dispensary patients is completely free. In 2016, 1.2 billion tenge (US$3.6 million) were allocated only from the local budget for such purposes in comparison to 929 million tenge (US$2.8 million) in 2012.

It is impossible to handle without the help of the government in the purchase of expensive drugs for patients with transplanted organs. Their cost ranges from 65 to 450 thousand tenge (US$196-$1,354). And a person must take such medicine after the operation during their whole life. In 2011, only after a five-year period, there were 12 Akmola citizens that received them for free and today they are 42.

 

The metropolitan area is believed to be among the leaders in terms of new health facilities construction. Is this information authentic?

Yes. As recently as last year six facilities were built; now there are four more. Currently, 592 medical institutions serve the population of the region.

Kazakhstan health care is moving forward (which is also recognised by international experts), by implementing in 2015 the State Programme Salamatty Kazakhstan (Healthy Kazakhstan). The country launched the implementation of another State Programme Densaulyk (Health) for 2016-19. Its purpose is to strengthen the nation’s health, reduce mortality from socially significant diseases, increase life expectancy and develop primary healthcare.

Our healthcare moves towards the people’s needs. And how it makes it, largely depends on on-site industry managers, all healthcare workers in the region. Now, we are actively preparing for the introduction of compulsory health insurance, which will bring citizens to social responsibility for their health and improve the quality of medical services.

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Street Workout Federation Promotes Emerging Sport Open to Everyone

Fri, 2017-01-20 04:39

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Street workout as a sports and social movement is recognised worldwide and surprisingly has a large number of supporters and leaders in a country where the cold weather season lasts for several months.

The Astana Times interviewed Street Workout Federation Secretary General Askar Ismailov to learn why this type of sport is popular and about the federation’s achievements.

Summer season opening in Astana. Photo credit: swf.kz

Founded in 2014, the Street Workout Federation is currently in the process of being recognised by the National Olympic Committee and subsequently accredited by the Ministry of Culture and Sport. The federation has branches in Aktobe, Shymkent, Karaganda, Pavlodar, Atbasar, Aktau and Almaty.

“Our mission is to provide affordable mass sports for the population. This is a sport that can be available in all regions of the country. Fitness clubs are not affordable for a number of people and sports clubs are not available in remote regions. The great thing about street workout training is you can train anywhere if there are horizontal and parallel bars. We attract young people, especially students, to our classes. They can show good results in a short time and this inspires others, too,” said Ismailov.

Islam Badurgov

The federation has already enjoyed the results of their activities. Islam Badurgov was invited as a special guest at the Battle of the Bars as part of the LA Fit Expo in Los Angeles in early January and his performance attracted a great deal of attention. Organised by the World Calisthenics Organisation (WCO), the event is the world’s major professional calisthenics competition.

“Initially Badurgov was invited to participate in the Battle of the Bars, but when they saw his level, they offered to make him a special guest. There are three major organisations in the world including WCO, World Street Workout and Calisthenics Federation and Denis Minin Street Workout Federation. The Battle of the Bars is held annually, gathering the strongest athletes from around the world. Badurgov showed the whole world the level of street workout athletes in Kazakhstan,” he said.

Summer season opening in Astana. Photo credit: swf.kz

The federation initiated various events in 2016. The opening of the summer season and a new sports ground near the Kazakhstan Sports Palace were among the major events with an exhibition performance and open training session. The capital also hosted the Street Lifting Championship last year. Regional competitions were held in Aktau, Karaganda, Petropavlovsk, Taraz, Aktobe and Almaty.

“An open battle tournament among the strongest athletes in the country has been scheduled in early March in the capital. We invited famous athletes from Russia and the U.S. We aim to gather all young talented people and give them the opportunity to participate in the world championships. Our open sports grounds are well equipped and attract a large audience. Up to 50 people gather there in the summer,” he said.

The activity is recommended for anyone regardless of age or physical condition, as it is considered to be safe with minimal risk of injury compared to CrossFit or bodybuilding.

The regional championship to identify talents throughout the country will be held annually. A championship among students in the capital and Almaty is also scheduled.

“Thirty specialised sports grounds were constructed nationwide last year. We plan to construct facilities for people with physical challenges. We will cooperate with the organisation that designs special areas and work with them to develop the sports facilities in accordance with their experience. Also, we plan to organise events as part of the ‘Hundred Schools, Hundred Sports Grounds’ programme. We are going to collaborate with the Ministry of Education and Science on popularisation of this sports activity among the youth,” said Ismailov.

Athletes organise free public workouts in summer which attract interest among children and adults. In winter, street workout classes are offered at Bar Bars Gym located in Dzhafar Shopping Mall. Gym membership is 9,000 tenge (US$27.23) for unlimited visits and 6,000 tenge ($18.15) for 12 visits. General trainings are held 7 p.m., Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The address is 71 Bogenbai Batyr Avenue.

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Food Delivery Services Gaining in Popularity

Fri, 2017-01-20 04:31

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The market segment of Kazakh food delivery has grown by nearly 1.7 billion tenge (US$5.1 million) in the last two years. Analysts at Burger King Kazakhstan and foodpanda.kz expect that in 2017, the volume will reach 9.4 billion tenge (US$28.4 million) and could easily exceed 10 billion tenge (US$30 million) by 2018.

The Burger King press service reported the food delivery market segment amounted to 8.4 billion tenge (US$25.4 million) last year compared to 7.1 billion tenge (US$21.5 million) in 2015, an estimated 5.2 billion tenge (US$15.7 million) in 2014 and 3.9 billion tenge (US$11.8 million) in 2013, according to kapital.kz.

Photo credit: kapital.kz

Experts from foodpanda.kz indicate the number of orders increased 20-30 percent per year in 2013-2014 and 45 percent in 2015. The spike in some months of 2016 reached 55 percent. They feel the growth in food delivery service and its exceeding popularity is based on its convenience and speed.

“I am an active user of many food delivery services in Astana. To be honest, I am not so good at cooking and I usually come home at 9 p.m. and neither my husband nor I wish to cook because we are too exhausted and want to watch TV or have some fun. I would like to highlight that the services are getting better and better. I consider that they have to compete with each other, offering higher standards of service and high quality food,” said Altynai Serikanova, 33, a procurement officer.

“Sometimes, I really want to use such services, but I stop myself. I consider that such food isn’t as good as food I cook at home and more importantly it isn’t as nutrient-enriched as dishes I usually cook. Of course it takes time, but I am a housewife and I have enough time to cook myself,” said 31-year-old Gulmira Kenzhegazinova.

“Food delivery service in Astana isn’t so expensive, but cooking at home is much cheaper,” she added.

QSR (quick service restaurants or fast food restaurants) is the most rapidly growing segment of the food delivery market. Depending on the region, the share at Burger King is as high as 8 percent, said a company representative.

Experts note food ordering services are seasonal. There is a general increase in orders from October-February and deliveries hike by an average of 12 percent in cold weather. The numbers are also higher on weekends and public holidays.

The services are extremely popular among young people aged 20-35, mostly office workers who order food to their homes or offices. The average bill is 3,500-5,000 tenge (US$11-15).

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Kazakh Teams Win Categories in Dakar and Africa Eco Race

Fri, 2017-01-20 01:00

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakhstan performed well in the Dakar Rally in South America and won a category in the Africa Eco Race, both of which ended Jan. 14.

At the Africa Eco Race 2017, the team of Marat Abykayev and Andrey Chipenko finished 16th in the general car ranking, but in the T2 they managed to win in their Toyota Land Cruiser.

Denis Berezovskiy at the beginning of Dakar 2017

In fact, the Kazakh crew was the only one in its category to finish the race.

“We had a goal to win a race and we did it and we are satisfied. Everything went almost flawlessly,” said Abykayev.

In the car-truck category (T1) Andrey Cherednikov and co-driver Dmitry Tsyro were unable to complete the rally because of an accident they had while driving their Ford.

“This year the race was unique. It’s my second time at Africa Eco Race, and I was shocked by the diversity and complexity of the route. It was not easy from the first day. It was a sophisticated rocky path from Morocco,” said Cherednikov, according to Tengrinews.

The Africa Eco Race is an annual rally that crosses Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal. In addition to the racing, the event tries to bring attention to security issues, sustainable development and eco-responsibility. The race has 12 stages and covers 6,500 kilometres of roads.

Marat Abykayev and Andrey Chipenko’s car at Africa Eco Race 2017

Competitors in the Dakar Rally covered a 9,000 kilometre route across Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina.

A Kazakh crew of Denis Berezovskiy and co-driver Alexey Nikizhev racing a Toyota Land Cruiser 200 took 28th place out of 57 teams in the general car ranking.

French teams dominated the category, with first place going to the French team of Stephane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean Paul Cottret, second place to driver Sebastien Loeb (France) and co-driver Daniel Elena (Monaco), and third place to Cyril Despres and co-driver David Castera, both of France. All teams were driving Peugeots.

In the T2 category (Cross-Country Series Production Vehicles) the same team of Berezovskiy and Nikizhev placed third, after Christian Lavieille-Jean-Pierre Garcin (France) and Akira Miura (Japan)-Laurent Lichtleuchter (France).

“The weather brought some changes. We thought there would be a drought in Bolivia and took water with us. Instead we ran into a swamp and were fighting there with mud and rains that triggered landslides and blocked roads, creating an emergency throughout the country,” said Berezovskiy in an interview with Khabar 24.

In the truck category, a crew led by third-place winner of Dakar 2012 driver Arthur Ardavichus and including co-driver Serge Bruynkens of Belgium and mechanic Michel Huisman of the Netherlands racing a MAN truck finished 26th out of 40 teams. The first and second places went to Russian teams on Kamaz vehicles. Third place went to a team of three drivers from the Netherlands, Spain and Poland, driving an Iveco.

“We worked 100 percent. We did everything we could. In the production category we got closer to the gold Bedouin. Denis was third in that category. This has not happened before,” said Ardavichus.

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Axartov Sisters Learn to Combine Motherhood and Entrepreneurship

Fri, 2017-01-20 00:51

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – As far as the Axartov sisters are concerned, there’s nothing like a clean eating regime and a juice fast to repair and renew the body.

Sisters Maya and Zhanna Axartov believe in the practice so much, they’re building a new detox business, all the while raising two toddler sons.

Maya, the younger of the sisters, is the mastermind behind the venture. She has long been interested in health and wellness. She follows successful nutritionists and wellness coaches on social media, reads health and fitness books, and makes sure her family eats healthy. With the arrival of her son Karim, her interest has grown stronger.

During one of her long sleepless nights, the young mother gathered all her courage and made up her mind to start a business in the industry in which she had so much interest, but where she had never worked before. A morning phone call to Zhanna reinforced her determination, as her elder sister supported the idea at once.

Maya (L) & Zhanna (R) Axartovs

A few months later, the sisters, an accountant and environmentalist, decided to pursue their dreams and co-founded Ax! Detox (www.axdetox.kz). Maya, 28, became the chief of operations and Zhanna, 30, took over marketing.

“We all want to have more energy, sleep more deeply, think more clearly and feel more vibrant. Giving the body a rest from solid food and nurturing it briefly with easily digested, nutrient-dense juices can improve health by healing and renewing the body, mind and spirit,” Zhanna told The Astana Times.

The industry newcomers currently offer one-day and three-day cleanse programmes. One detox day includes seven types of beverages. A client is delivered four bottles of different smoothies, two bottles of fresh juices and one bottle of protein-rich almond milk in the morning after placing an order the evening before. Besides these, customers are recommended to drink plenty of water during the day, as well as the home-made herbal tea that comes as a bonus from the producers.

“Whether the customer’s goal is to boost the immune system, slim down or detox after a few too many cocktail parties, we can create a unique juice cleanse programme tailored to meet the client’s specific needs. The beverages do not contain any artificial sweeteners, colorants or genetically modified food. All the juices are cold-pressed. The fruits and vegetables are organic and fresh. They are soaked in water for a few hours before use. That’s how we ensure they are nitrate-free,” Maya said.

The two women stand by their products. “We test the products and menus at home with our sons, family members and friends. I am a proud mother.  My 22-month old son has already developed healthy eating habits. He will choose spirulina over a candy any day,” Maya commented.

The variety of ingredients the beverages contain is really wide. One can only imagine having such a diversity of nutritious ingredients in a day’s menu. On average, seven types of vegetables, eight types of fruits, three varieties of berries, greens, spirulina  (a biomass of blue-green algae), chia seeds, Jerusalem artichoke syrup, cinnamon, vegetable protein and chlorella are used to prepare the beverages of just one day. The drinks are not repeated within any of the programmes.

One of the competitive advantages of Ax! Detox is that they provide comprehensive information about cleansing with additional guidance for wellness practices. The company has partnered with famous Russian wellness coach Yekaterina Koval (@detoxickate), who shares her expertise with the novice businesswomen. Every Ax! Detox client is offered a promo code to log into Koval’s website (www.detoxickate.ru/axdetox) and learn much more about their cleanse and wellness as a whole.

The sisters are continuously learning and exploring opportunities to improve and expand the business. “We recommend a cleanse with a juice fast at the change of every season, so now we are developing three-day juice fasts for winterspringsummer and fall,” Maya shared.

Other than juices and smoothies, the company makes superfoods, which they sell in local stores. For a deeper cleanse, the entrepreneurs are also looking into introducing a 21-day menu after building a solid client base and monitoring their needs.

When asked how they combine motherhood with business, Maya jokingly responded, “by not sleeping at night.”

Despite the challenges, the family business is thriving. The sister’s parents, who live just outside the capital, grow the vegetables, fruits and berries used to make the juices and smoothies. Maya’s husband Adlet delivers orders in the morning before going to his main job. Others are involved in tasting new products.

“We have recently hired our first staff member who is not part of our family. Now we can take orders in four languages: Kazakh, Russian, French and English,” Zhanna said.

The small family business has almost 4,000 followers on Instagram (@ax_detox) and a few dozen regular clients. A one-day cleanse costs 8,500 tenge (US$26) and the price for the three-day fast is 23,500 tenge (US$70).

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Astana New Railway Station 85 Percent Completed, Will Open Before EXPO 2017

Fri, 2017-01-20 00:41

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Astana’s new railway station and junction are 80 percent constructed, Kanat Alpysbayev, head of the national railway company Kazakhstan Temir Zholy reported recently.

Photo credit: inform.kz

Installation and commissioning of the elevators and escalators, landscaping and finishing work will be completed by May 1.

The new train station’s passenger traffic capacity will be 12 million people a year and 35,000 passengers per day. That is twice as much as the actual annual traffic of the current train station. The area the new station occupies is eleven times greater than the territory of the old one.

Trains will arrive inside the building with the help of an overpass on the third floor. This will allow people and trains to move freely. A two-level parking garage will be available under the overpass. Passengers will be able to use it for public and private transport.

The train station will have six active tracks and one emergency rail line. The building will be heated by underground heat exchangers. The station will be equipped with energy-efficient elevators and escalators.

A passenger service will be built on a coastal and three island platforms. All the additional functions of the station will be implemented in a commercial building, which will be located on the other side of the tracks.

The modern railway station will feature a hotel, restaurants, cafes, a food court, first-aid posts and mother and child rooms. Ticket offices will be located on the ground and fourth floors.

The new facility will allow a more efficient use of the urban area. In particular, Mustafin Street will be uninterrupted with the help of a transit underground pass.

Construction of the station is carried out with the use of the latest advanced technologies. More than a thousand people are engaged in the works.

Concrete works, metal frame installation, roofing, cladding of the facades in the heated parts of the train station, central heating provision have been completed. Installation of bearings, metal structures and soundproofing screens has also been finished. Mounting of the top layer of the overpass is well underway.

Plating of the cornices, finishing works on the facades of the unheated parts of the station, installation of ventilation systems, external power supply are 90 percent completed, Alpysbayev said. Finishing works inside the station’s building are in full swing.

Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister Askar Mamin visited the new railway station Jan. 11 to see the construction progress and highlighted the importance of putting these facilities into operation before the start of EXPO 2017.

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Honey Production to Gain Momentum in Eastern Kazakhstan, Say Experts

Fri, 2017-01-20 00:28

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

Experts are forecasting a honey production boom in eastern Kazakhstan in the next two-three years amid increased exports to China.

The history of beekeeping in the area dates back more than two centuries. The first 200 beehives were brought from Russia’s Orenburg oblast in 1792 and a century later, the vicinity had 150,000 hives spread across the region. A strong network of large apiaries was located along the Ulba, Bukhtarma, Irtysh and Kurchum rivers and Markakol and Zaisan lakes.

Every family had at least two dozen hives, withbees kept in the vast mountain logs from bottom to top. The taste varied depending on the location. Local beekeepers produced thousands of tonnes of honey, which was cheaper than sugar.

The East Kazakhstan region is trying to restore its former glory as a major honey producing area. According to the National Union of Beekeepers (NUB), in the peak season the number of local bee colonies reaches 300,000. Their amount, however, needs to be increased.

“The apiaries are mainly located in the steppe zone on the left bank of the Irtysh River and forests and the alpine zone are practically not used. There are no paved roads or communication means. According to our estimates, the local farmers produce 5,000-6,000 tonnes of honey, which is only 3-5 percent of the region’s potential,” said NUB vice president Igor Rukavitsin.

Apiary owners are learning to declare the hives to be able to receive a proper state registration necessary for an export permit.

“The beekeepers are declaring parts of their ventures; they are not yet willing to spend money on expensive laboratory tests. The profits from pollination are 30 times higher compared to income from honey production.” said Rukavitsin.

“Scientists have predicted that if suddenly all bees disappeared, in just four years all types of crops on planet Earth would be extinct. Here in the region, 400,000 hectares of land are used to grow sunflowers and 800,000 bee colonies are needed to pollinate these areas. We only have one-third of that amount. Therefore, instead of 4,000-5,000 kilogrammes of sunflower seeds per hectare, we collect 1,500,” he added.

Union head Sergey Tereshchenko noted the factors hindering development of regional honey production. Lack of lending and funding subsidies and low honey consumption by locals are among the biggest obstacles.

“According to statistics, an average consumption of sugar in Kazakhstan is 36 kilogrammes per person a year, while the average annual consumption of honey is 50 grammes. Those who eat honey should tell their families and friends of the benefits of the product. We should introduce honey in school menus. If we can increase the average consumption to two kilogrammes per person a year, that will be a great achievement. Our beekeepers have the capacity to keep up with such demand,” he said.

Experts are optimistic about future prospects.

“Things are moving. Last summer, a few large agricultural enterprises spoke to beekeepers with a request to put the hives in fields. They were ready to guard them and provide water to secure pollination,” said Rukavitsin.

Eastern Kazakhstan beekeepers see China as their main market. Chinese visitors are purchasing all the honey stocks in Ust-Kamenogorsk, according to industry experts. Buyers look for products with a Made in Kazakhstan label due to its quality and medical properties, with a lion’s share of the product already exported through the border trade.

“We have already shipped large batches to Xi’an and Hong Kong. This is only the beginning. The local consumer must be prepared that the market price will rise to $10-$15 per kilogramme. If we do not build up a number of bee colonies, the locals can be left without honey,” he added.

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In Search of Peace for Syria: World’s Eyes Are on Astana

Fri, 2017-01-20 00:21

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

At a time when there is a clear need for international cooperation, there has been no greater example of failure than the continuing tragedy of Syria. In fighting which began nearly six years ago, more than 300,000 people have been killed and 12 million – half the country’s population – have been forced to flee their homes. It is now the deadliest conflict of the 21st Century.

Given the horrific scenes of destruction and human misery the world has witnessed, it might have been hoped that the international community would step in to bring all sides together to resolve the crisis. But where intervention has been made, it has either failed to make progress or led to an increase in the intensity of the fighting.

Countries within the region, and beyond, have found themselves sucked into the crisis. Whatever their good intentions, their support, weapons and active involvement have deepened the agony of the Syrian people.

The impact has been felt far wider than Syria and its immediate neighbours, who are struggling to cope with millions of refugees. The crisis has led to a troubling increase in tensions between countries and long-distance flows of migrants unprecedented in modern times. It has also added greatly to the threat from violent extremism.

It is against this profoundly worrying background that the talks taking place in Astana on the Syrian crisis will be welcomed. They have been brokered by Russia and Turkey, who are working together despite differing views on the crisis, and will be attended by many of the groups involved.

It is no coincidence that Kazakhstan’s capital has been chosen to host these important talks. The government in Astana has good relations with Turkey and Russia as well as all the other countries engaged in Syria. The proximity of Central Asia to the Middle East means the Kazakhs have a particular interest in the security and stability of the region.

Kazakhstan also, of course, has a proud record of promoting peace and fostering international cooperation. It is a record which helped secure the country’s election onto the United Nations Security Council, as the first one from its region, and which Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev promised earlier this month would remain a priority during the two-year term.

The strong friendships that Kazakhstan has forged across the world have also enabled it, in recent years, to play a key role in easing tensions between its allies. Both Turkey and Russia have, for example, paid tribute to President Nazarbayev for helping restore good relations between them following the shooting down of a Russian aircraft.

Kazakhstan was also the venue for crucial talks between the major powers and Iran over its nuclear programme. At one of the most challenging times in the negotiations, these talks helped keep the dialogue alive and paved the way for the eventual historic agreement.

The hope must be that the upcoming crucial talks in Astana can play the same role. There is a desperate need to find common ground which can, in time, lead to a full and permanent end to the fighting and a better, peaceful future for the country’s citizens. If those involved seize the opportunity to address humanitarian concerns, it could prove to be, as Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov has said, an important step in preparation for the resumption of the Geneva process scheduled for next month.

No one should be in any doubt of the major obstacles which still have to be overcome to find a lasting solution to this crisis. But there is an increasing recognition from almost all those involved that only diplomatic efforts, not military action, can bring an end to the conflict without many more months of fighting, destruction and loss of life. Such an agreement is also urgently needed to help all parties and countries focus on countering the threat posed by DAESH and the barbaric groups associated with them.

Kazakhstan is not directly involved in the discussions. The hosts’ role is to provide a neutral and safe venue. But Kazakhstan has made clear that it will, through its position on the UN Security Council, do all it can to encourage the multiple parties involved to make progress. Finding a lasting and peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis must be a priority for the entire world.

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Astana – Schuchinsk Toll Road Earns Record High $3.8 Million

Thu, 2017-01-19 02:06

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – In 2016, the Astana- Schuchinsk toll road earned 1.251 billion tenge (US$3.8 million), which is higher than projected. All revenues were spent on the site for modernisation of the toll collection systems and maintenance of the road, KazAvtoZhol national company reports.

Expected revenues for 2016 were 1,144 billion tenge (US$3.37 million). The overachievement of the plan’s target amounted to 107 million tenge (US$324,000). Total volume of vehicles was 2.697 million in 2016. That number is 4.3 percent higher than total traffic volume in 2015 (2.581 million vehicles). Last year, the average number of vehicles was 7,000-8,000 vehicles per day. But on weekends, the number reached up to 12,000 vehicles per day.

KazAvtoZhol reported that the main expenses of the company for this road include: purchase of materials, wages, spare parts, fuel, construction works and services, repair of machines and equipment. Approximately 278.9 million tenge (US$844,000) was spent on the maintenance of toll collection systems. Of that, 887 million tenge (US$2.7 million) was spent on the maintenance and repair of the road.

KazAvtoZhol has established a payment system, popularising rapid cashless forms of payment and allowing clients to pay using payment terminals of QIWI, Kassa24, Kaspi Bank and Tenge companies.

Also, KazAvtoZhol implemented an advanced payment service, attracting Halyk Bank, Kaspi Bank and Sberbank. The toll road users have the opportunity to pay via internet banking with their bankcards. New payment services reduced the load on the bill validators, which led to a reduction of congestion in payment areas.

Earlier, Mazhilis (lower house of Parliament) Deputy Aikyn Konurov expressed displeasure to the management of KazAvtoZhol after studying a standard form contract, published on the company’s website. The deputy said the company isn’t obliged to maintain the toll road to make it safe under the contract.

Konurov said the authorised speed on the road reaches 140 kilometres per hour, but it is not safe to drive a vehicle at that speed in winter time, because KazAvtoZhol doesn’t maintain it and shovel snow away in a proper way. He said that as a result of such management, people die on the road.

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National Railway Company to Begin Inspecting Luggage at 16 Stations

Thu, 2017-01-19 02:03

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Inspection of passengers’ luggage will be performed at 16 railroad stations in the country, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ) press service reports.

“This procedure will enter into force from Feb. 1 this year to step up the measures of safety of passengers and provision of antiterrorist protection,” the official KTZ press release reads.

The procedure will be going through three stages, according to head of Railway Stations Management Department at KTZ Zhuban Korpebayev: from Feb. 1., at the railroad stations in Almaty 1 and Almaty 2; from April 1 at the station in Astana and from June 1 at the other 13 stations.

The railway company has purchased 56 sets of inspecting year for the new programme, according to the press service.

Korpebayev encourages passengers to arrive in the station earlier than usual to go through the checks and not be late for the train.

“I think it is a good measure and it can be easily explained in wake of such events as the Universiade and EXPO 2017 in the country,” said Astana resident Arman Nurkenov, who frequents the railroad station to either travel himself or meet his relatives arriving from his home town of Almaty.

“It will be inconvenient, of course, but many countries in Europe had terrorist attacks and only after that started taking preventive measures and being strict on security. It is good to know our authorities are thinking ahead of time and are taking precautions,” Nurkenov added.

On Jan. 16, the Anti-Terrorist Centre of Kazakhstan cancelled the yellow (moderate) level of terrorist threat across the country. The yellow level came into force June 6 after the terrorist attacks in Aktobe.

The yellow level was enforced while authorities were verifying information about any possible act of terrorism. This is the lowest of three levels, the next level is orange, in which information of a possible terrorist threat or act of terrorism has been confirmed.

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Shymkent-Based Plant to Produce Green Algae Superfoods Spirulina, Chlorella

Thu, 2017-01-19 01:59

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The global superfood movement attracts an army of followers worldwide and Kazakhstan is no exception. In this sense, the Lotus Organics is a unique enterprise as this is one of two dozen companies in the world that manufacture patented biotechnological production strains based on algae bacteria.

Azamat Ibdullayev.

Located in the Ontustik industrial zone in Shymkent, the plant is unique for the Kazakh market because it is engaged in the production of organic products based on the unique properties of spirulina, chlorella and a number of useful microalgae.

The company aims not only to contribute to the development of the domestic biotech sector but also compete with European producers.

The range of raw materials and final products of microalgae biotechnology and beneficial microorganisms is extremely wide. It covers almost all major economic sectors, including components for nanotechnology.

Industrial production of microalgae biomass and beneficial microorganisms and products of their biomass is highly profitable. The main consumers of such industries are pharmaceuticals, food industry, perfumery and the agriculture industry.

“We began testing and validation of the first products in June this year. We were working with the agro-industrial complex producing premixes for the animal farming group. However, the algae we have grown can be used for medical purposes. After consulting with foreign experts, we have come to the decision that it will be important to produce organic products for people,” Lotus Organics head Azamat Ibdullayev told the Astana Times.

The company sent two products – spirulina and fulvic acid for testing to the Switzerland.

Spirulina includes all the substances necessary for an organism including beta-carotene, chlorophyll, chromium, vitamin B 12 and iron, Ibdullayev said. Fulvic acid has long beenpopular in the western countries. It facilitates the absorption of minerals, increases metabolism and has antioxidant properties, and most importantly, removes toxins from body.

“We invited foreign experts to our studies. A leading specialist of our company is Biological Sciences Doctor Farkhad Omarov who collaborates with a team of 15 people, including chemists, biologists and engineers. We do not see the need for a large staff since our production is automated,” he said.

The project is entirely funded by private investors.

“Today, there are about two dozen companies in the world that produce patented biotechnological production strains based on algae bacteria and we are one of them. Our know-how technology allows keeping the useful components. Algae lose up to 40 percent of useful trace elements by drying. And we managed to avoid it. Many factors, such as sunny weather, altitude and water should be taken into account when you grow the bacteria. Our factory is located in the South Kazakhstan region. It is the most convenient location in terms of climatic conditions and sophisticated agrochemical and biochemical systems,” he said.

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Kazakhstan Takes Delivery of Sukhoi Su-30SM Jet Fighters

Wed, 2017-01-18 01:31

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

The Kazakh Armed Forces recently took delivery of a new batch of modern multifunctional Su-30SM jet fighters of the 4++ generation, the press office of the Defence Ministry reported.

Sukhoi Su-30SM Jet Fighter.

The fighter jets are capable of performing a wide range of all-weather combat missions and counter hostile aircraft at a considerable distance from the base. The Su-30SM is deployed to eliminate air, ground and sea targets, and is equipped with a wide range of weapons and complex modern avionics. Its combat and performance characteristics are close to the aircraft of the latest fifth generation. The jet fighter is effective in counter-airstrikes, counter-ground and counter-sea missions. It can conduct electronic counter-measures and early warning tasks. The aircraft also acts as a command-and-control platform within a fleet of combat aircraft performing joint missions.

The Su-30SM is manufactured by Sukhoi Design Bureau mainly for Russia’s Air Force. It is an advanced model of the Su-30MK combat aircraft series. In addition to Kazakhstan and Russia, the armed forces of Algeria, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Uganda, Venezuela and Vietnam utilise aircraft of Su-30MK series.

The airframe of the Su-30SM is made of titanium and high-strength aluminium alloys. The fuselage head houses a cockpit, radar sections and avionics bay. High maneuverability is achieved through the integral aerodynamic form combined with thrust vectoring feature. The Su-30SM is powered by two AL-31FP by-pass turbojet reheated engines.

The Su-30SM features friend-or-foe identification equipment, global positioning system and inertial navigation system. The open architecture design allows the integration of modern avionics, including a new radar system, radio and recognition system and other support systems.

“To be able to successfully deploy the fighter, a deep knowledge of technology and continuous self-improvement are needed.  Our aircrew took an 18-month training to be able to pilot the fighters. The new aircraft enhance the safety and defence capabilities of the Armed Forces of Kazakhstan as a whole,” said deputy commander of the air base on educational and ideological work Colonel Temirtas Ibraev.

The first Su-30SM fighter designed for the Russian Ministry of Defence performed its maiden flight in September 2012.

Kazakhstan bought its first batch of the Su-30SM in 2015 as part of agreements concluded earlier between the defence ministers of the two countries.

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Astana to Add 45 School Buses to City Transportation System

Wed, 2017-01-18 01:27

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – This year, 45 new buses will be launched for the project of a route network of school traffic, said the head of the department of passenger transport Beibut Yeszhanov during a public hearing on the programme of action for 2017 on the development of the transport complex of the capital.

According to expert, the school transport system is divided into several stages.

“Today, we already serve 10 schools, however, these buses are already outdated, so the akimat (city administration) of Astana has considered renewal of buses. This year, 45 buses will be put into operation and we will consider the expansion of the school network,” he said.

He also talked about the special conditions for the school buses.

“There are technical regulations approved by the Customs Union, which require special certification. There is no clear understanding of what the school transportation is in our transport legislation, so we are working on making changes to the law. Visually, these buses will have a yellow colour, flashing light and a high ground clearance,” added Yeszhanov.

The adoption of the route network and the distribution between the schools will be held in late February. The system of school transport development is planned until 2020. For 100 percent coverage, the capital needs more than 300 buses.

At the moment in Astana, there are about 117,000 students, 26 percent of which use private transport to go to school. It leads to a daily load increase in the road network during rush hour of 13 percent while only 12 percent of children use public transport.

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Nordic Walking Offers Great Health Benefits, Says Instructor

Wed, 2017-01-18 01:21

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Nordic Walking, started in Finland, is drawing attention as a sport suitable for people of all ages who enjoy being outdoors. Three years ago, Almaty resident Maxim Proshchenko founded Eurasia, a Nordic Walking school certified by Nordic Walking International (NWI) headquartered in Germany.

The school currently has instructors in the Kazakh capital, Karaganda, Temirtau, Ust-Kamenogorsk, Pavlodar, Aktau, Zhetykara, Kokshetau, Shchuchinsk, as well as in Bishkek, Krasnodar, Barnaul and Moscow. The Astana Times interviewed Lyazzat Bozgulova, of the capital location, about the technique and health benefits of this low-impact exercise.

“Nordic Walking features a specific range of movement. It is a year-round sport; the main thing in this sport is appropriate equipment according to the season. One can choose a favourite place, comfortable walking distance and pace. An hour of daily walking can be very beneficial to health. Nordic Walking involves approximately 90 percent of one’s muscles, improving cardiovascular system functions, strengthening muscles that support the spine and increasing rotation of joints,” she said.

Nordic Walking is a total body version of walking that can be enjoyed both by non-athletes as a health-promoting physical activity and by athletes as a sport. The motion is performed with specially designed walking poles similar to ski sticks.

The poles have been proven by an Israeli research team to help alleviate chronic pain in older individual’s hips, knees and backs. According to the study, led by Tel Aviv Medical Centre retired nephrologist Dr. Donald Silverberg and published in the International Journal of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation, Nordic Walking holds promise in the effective treatment of chronic back, hip and knee pain when walking, both in degree of pain relief and distance walked. It is a relatively simple exercise that is easy to learn and perform and is safe, convenient, inexpensive and can be a pleasant adjunct to therapy for these conditions.

Unlike ski sticks, pole length is determined by a person’s height and calculated by multiplying height by 0.66. Poles can be purchased at sports equipment shops and through Nordic Walking clubs.

“Walking poles have removable rubber tips suitable for hard surfaces. These poles should be adjusted in length to be at the level of the navel or elbow. They are pushed backwards as one walks, while swinging the arms like a pendulum. When pushed downward, the poles thrust the athlete upward and forward, forcing him or her to straighten and speed up, because one uses a longer step and a faster gait with Nordic Walking than with a common gait,” said Bozgulova.

Nordic Walking has been shown to improve muscle strength in the upper arms, shoulders, neck, abdomen, chest, back, hips, knees and legs and posture, flexibility, balance, endurance and gait parameters. In the city, Bozgulova noted the activity is attractive mostly to women.

“They come and also bring their children who are sitting a lot at school or at the computer, suffering scoliosis or obesity and lack fresh air. As for me, I have been involved in this sport over the past two years. I always liked walking, especially with sticks. I think I am an active person; I love yoga, social dancing and rock climbing. If I go somewhere I always take sticks, it is very comfortable. Now, Nordic Walking has become very popular all over the world and now it is becoming trendy in Kazakhstan,” she said.

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