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Prime Minister addresses concerns about EXPO 2017 costs

15 hours 53 min ago

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

ASTANA – Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev recently responded to concerns over the high cost of hosting EXPO 2017.

“We will host the expo for three months. I understand that a lot of skeptics speak out about why we have spent so much money. Thirteen billion tenge (US$ 40.5 million) was allocated for the Universiade. Taking into account that we were able to save 4 billion tenge (US$12.4 million), Almaty has had a big effect from the Universiade. The expo will have a huge impact not only on Astana, but the entire country,” the head of the government said during a recent government meeting.

He also expressed confidence the expo would be held at a high level.

“Now we must work together to make sure the country’s next landmark event is held at a high level. I think it will be organised at a respectable level,” he added.

Sagintayev thanked the organisers of the Universiade and local athletes.

“The Ministry of Culture and Sport must make timely payments to the winners and prize-winners of the Universiade, as well as their coaches. They must prepare the corresponding resolution, without delay, and submit it to the prime minister’s office. The ministry, together with the Almaty akimat (mayor’s office) must address the further use of the sports facilities that were built (for the Universiade),” said Sagintayev.

In addition, he instructed the akims (mayors) of Astana and Almaty to share their experience in hosting such major events. He said Almaty’s experience in dealing with post-event use and repurposing of the facilities will be beneficial for Astana.


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Kazakh DJ signs contract with Armin Van Buuren

15 hours 59 min ago

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

ASTANA – While singer Dimash Kudaibergen is rocking stages in the East, Kazakh DJ Farleon, also known as Sultan Karimov, signed a contract with the world-famous Dutch record label Armada Music in the West.

Kazakhstan’s mass media have been buzzing about Kudaibergen’s success in the Chinese television song contest Singer 2017, otherwise known as I Am a Singer, where he is the heavy favourite. Kudaibergen’s charisma and natural talent helped him conquer the hearts of the Chinese audience in just one day. But he is not alone, making strides in the music world from Kazakhstan these days. DJ Farleon from the North Kazakhstan region is also climbing the charts in Europe.

Armada Music was established by world’s renowned DJ Armin Van Buuren and his friends. Van Buuren won the best DJ of the Planet award in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012 according to DJ Mag.

“We signed a contract with the label for one song,” said Temirlan Dautkaliyev, Farleon’s project manager. “The Dutch will help in promoting the track. The contract stipulates the copy rights and the distribution of potential income. Sultan is a very talented musician, and I am pretty sure that he has a big future waiting for him.”

According to Dauletkaliyev, the track release is scheduled for March this year at the sub-label of Armada Music – Showland. The track will also be featured in one of the best Russian compilations – Swanky Tunes for Miami Music Week 2017.

As per earlier reports by, Karimov started cooperation with another Dutch, world-famous label – Spinning Records. This label recorded such famous artists as Avicii, Calvin Harris, Tiesto, DJ SNAKE, Martin Garrix, Kaskade, Martin Solveig and many others.

In October 2016, Karimov’s track “Fever,” was released under the label of the famous DJ Don Diablo and made it into the main playlist of electronic dance music in electroNOW at the streamline service Spotify.

The artist’s manager said the new contract has many advantages. Spotify pays from $6,000 to $8,000 for each million plays.

“The sale of singles is not the main source of income for singers in the west – they get most of the earnings from appearances, however, the fee depends on the artist’s popularity, and then the effect of the label is very important,” Dauletkaliyev explained.
Karimov was born and raised in the North Kazakhstan region. He liked the music from early childhood. His fortune was found for the first time in 2012, when he released his debut mini-album Millenium. As a result, he entered the top five releases of the week on the American version of the portal about electronic music, Beatport. After that a few of his tracks and remixes gained popularity in SoundCloud.

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Kazakhstan takes 42nd place in Heritage Foundation’s World 2017 Index of Economic Freedom

16 hours 2 min ago

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

ASTANA – Kazakhstan took 42nd place on the 2017 Index of Economic Freedom published by The Heritage Foundation, Washington, DC-based think tank. Quantitative and qualitative factors such as property rights, government integrity, judicial effectiveness, government spending, tax burden, fiscal health, business, labour, monetary, trade, investment and financial freedom of the nation were carefully analysed.

The report indicates Kazakhstan’s economy has substantially benefited from increased openness and flexibility during the past decade and emphasises the country continues to maintain its ownership in key enterprises, particularly in the energy sector. The economy is mostly in private hands and more privatisation is being sought.

Beneficial structural reforms have included bank privatisation, implementing competitive flat tax rates and modernising the trade regime, according to the report.

Foundation experts advise organising deeper institutional reforms contributing to investment and increasing judiciary efficiency.

The regulatory framework has undergone a series of reforms and the private sector now faces fewer constraints, although there is still much room for institutional reform. Labour regulations are relatively flexible, facilitating the development of a more dynamic labour market. Kazakhstan is subsidising renewable energy with the goal of having 10 percent of its needs met by renewables by 2030, according to the report.

Experts also consider trade to be important to Kazakhstan’s economy. The total value of exports and imports equals 53 percent of the GDP and the average applied tariff rate is 3.3 percent. 

The Index of Economic Freedom, an annual guide, aims to help users track more than two decades of development in economic freedom and prosperity and promote the ideas in their homes, schools and communities. It covers 10 freedoms, from property rights to entrepreneurship, in 186 countries and the foundation website provides the opportunity to compare different nations.

The foundation considers economic freedom as the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labour and property, reporting that “in an economically free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume and invest in any way they please. In economically free societies, governments allow labour, capital and goods to move freely and refrain from coercion or constraint of liberty beyond the extent necessary to protect and maintain liberty itself.”

Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand took the first three places, respectively, and are considered to be nations with the highest economic freedom index. Kazakhstan belongs to the moderately free group of countries along with Japan (40th place), Poland (45th place), Belgium (49th place), Turkey (60th place) and Kuwait (61st place). It has significantly higher positions in comparison with countries such as Belarus (104th place), China (111st place), Russia (114th place) and Ukraine (166th place).

Experts highlight economic freedom provides more prosperity and its ideals are closely related to human development, healthier societies, cleaner environments, increasing per capita wealth, democracy and eliminating poverty.

The Heritage Foundation has provided the analysis in a clear and user-friendly style for more than 20 years. Offering new resources for users, the think tank gives opportunities for both research and education.


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EXPO 2017 to offer more than 3,000 cultural events

16 hours 4 min ago

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

ASTANA – Minister of Culture and Sport of Kazakhstan Arystanbek Mukhamediuly has announced that the cultural programme of EXPO 2017 in Astana will consist of more than 3,000 events.

Photo credit:

“Over three months from June 10 to Sept. 10, Kazakhstan and its capital will be the subjects of world attention. Several million participants and visitors are expected to visit Astana this summer. Thus, the Ministry of Culture and Sport, the akimat (mayor’s office) of Astana city and the Astana EXPO 2017 national company are working on the implementation of a comprehensive programme of more than 3,000 events,” said Mukhamediuly.

Twenty tents and 13 sectors of the expo will showcase the diversity of Kazakh national culture, art and sport. The programme will launch with the beginning of EXPO 2017 at the territory of Kazanat hippodrome, Mukhamediuly said.

Artists from well-known theatres from around the world will also perform for expo visitors, the minister reported. Italy’s La Scala theatre, sponsored by Italian oil and gas company Eni, will make a stop in Astana, as will Russia’s Mariinsky Theatre.

The Swiss company Rolex has become a sponsor of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, an international young vocalists’ competition, which will give a final performance at Astana Opera.

China’s famous Terracotta Army soldiers will be on display at the National Museum of Kazakhstan, Egypt will bring a collection of archaeological objects from ancient Egypt, the State Hermitage Museum and the Association of the Museums of France and others will also be creating exhibits, Mukhamediuly said.

Open-air performances of “Don Quixote,” “Aida” and the Kazakh classic “Kyz Zhibek” will be staged. Kazakhstan’s guests will be able to see Kazakh musicals including “Astana,” “Love Poem,” “Dostar Serti” and others, and a symphonic orchestra of 800 musicians from Novosibirsk, the Mikhailovsky Opera and local companies will perform the Eighth Symphony of Austrian composer Gustav Mahler.

The Eurasia Dance Festival, which will highlight global ballet stars, and a theatre festival dedicated to the 80th anniversary of local artist Asanali Ashimov, will be held during the expo, and a competition among singers of the Turkic world will be held in Barys Arena

Mukhamediuly also noted that a number of major sporting events will be held during the expo. “In terms of the sport programme, there will be five world championships, two Asian championships, the Kazakhstan President’s Football Cup, the President’s Challenger Cup of Tennis, the Silk Road 2017 international rally, the 55th anniversary of the International Convention of the World Boxing Council and an evening of professional boxing,” concluded the minister.

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National Bank to continue floating exchange rate, other inflation control measures in 2017

16 hours 19 min ago

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

ASTANA – In 2017, the National Bank of Kazakhstan will continue its policy of a free floating exchange rate, its strengthening of the base rate on the real sector of economy and will retain principles of inflation targeting, Daniyar Akishev, chair of Kazakhstan’s National Bank, announced recently.

“Last year was a difficult one. It was the first year after high turbulence across the financial landscape. Therefore, the bank had a number of difficult tasks which needed resolving in a short period of time. First of all, reducing inflation. In our view, it is not simply a tribute to theory that a low inflation is an important macro economic index. It is indeed the main figure of social well-being of citizens that lies on the base of efficient activity of the National Bank and its monetary policy,” Akishev noted.

Stabilisation of inflation expectations is another important aspect, according to him. Polls conducted by specialised companies demonstrate a significant reduction of a share for those who expect high growth of prices. The chairman assured that the impact of transferring a change in the currency exchange rate into domestic prices has been overcome.

“Now we will have to work further within standard instruments of monetary policy,” the head of the bank said.

The third important aspect is the real impact of the base rate on the currency market. All rates in the currency market depend on the National Bank’s base rate.

“Liquidity granting or withdrawal by the National Bank automatically takes place in any amounts a financial market participant can be eligible for. This means that with the National ’Bank’s involvement in the market, price for tenge forms, which then transforms into the cost of credit resources for a real sector of the economy,” Akishev continued.   

“Basic areas of monetary policy for year 2017,” published in December of 2016, contain the basic priorities of the National Bank.

According to the head of the bank, maintaining the regime of a free floating exchange rate is the first priority while following principles of inflation targeting and keeping inflation at 6-8 percent corridor is the next priority.

Increasing the impact of the base rate via the credit channel on the real sector of economy is the bank’s third priority.   

Akishev stressed that the National Bank will continue operations on the currency market and most of the tasks will be fulfilled in case of favourable situations on external markets.

“The main focus will be on continuing information campaigns on openness, awareness-raising activities on all areas and comprehensive expanding published information and statistics. Various forms of information delivery depending on the audience, both for wide public and experts, investment banks and analysts will be elaborated,” he said.   


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Modernisation at Pavlodar oil chemistry refinery nears completion

16 hours 25 min ago

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

PAVLODAR – Kazakhstan’s oil industry is set to mark a significant milestone during the first half of 2017 when a wide-scale modernisation of the Pavlodar Oil Chemistry Refinery is scheduled to be completed.

Photo credit: Valeriya Bugayeva

The modernisation of tools on renewed areas of the complex – a unit of high-octane number component of oil recovery and splitting its hydrotreated cut into light and heavy naphtha is near completion.

A sulphur production site is being renewed too. General construction, mainly concrete works are also near the finish line. It is possible that all of the projects will be completed ahead of schedule.

The modernisation will increase the facility’s oil refining capacity to 7.5 million tonnes per year, which is 24 percent higher than the current output.

The development of high-octane European standard gasolines will double in comparison to 2014. Diesel  oil will increase to 5,630 tonnes per year, or 34 percent higher than in 2014, while aircraft fuel will increase for more than two times.

In general, the output of light oil products will more than double compared to current production. The release of 80 RON low octane gasoline will be completely terminated. At that, the depth of oil refining will increase to nearly 90 percent.

Today, the Pavlodar Oil Chemistry Refinery supplies domestic market with up to 60 percent of total volume of light oil products. So Euro-4 and Euro-5 standard products, that are to be released in the spring, will be a substantial contribution to the country’s economy.

Furthermore, implementing the Modernisation of Pavlodar Oil Chemistry Refinery, LLP project will provide Kazakhstan’s domestic market with quality petroleum products compliant with the requirements of ecological K4 and K5 grades, reduce harmful effect on the environment due to introducing new technologies, enhance control automation and promote the rational use of natural resources.

In addition, petroleum products will have less sulphur, benzene and other unwanted components.

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Innovative liquefied natural gas station opens in Astana

16 hours 31 min ago

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

ASTANA – An opening ceremony of up-to-date Turan liquefied natural gas station and its initial start-up of natural gas was held recently in Astana. Nearby Nazarbayev University became the first user of the gas station.

“Today is a remarkable day for Astana. The whole country is under the gasification process by order of the head of state. Today, a new gas supply based on an innovative LNG technology has been started. I hope that all our planned projects will be implemented and we will be able to solve all ecological problems and emissions reduction in Astana,” said Astana Akim (Mayor) Asset Issekeshev at the opening ceremony.

The first station of liquefied natural gas re-gasification with 25 gigacalorie per hour capacity was constructed and put into operation under the ASTANA LNG 2020 project by Global Gas Group. According to the founders, the station has the capacity to heat more than half a million square metres.

The opening ceremony was also attended by Vice-President for Innovation of Nazarbayev University Kanat Baigarin, Director of Global Gas Regasification Panaiot Saulidi as well as representatives of Russian Gazprom export and Gazprom Transgas Ekaterinburg.

The station is only the first stage of tubeless gasification of the north-eastern regions of Kazakhstan. It is planned to prepare Astana to connect to the main gas pipeline by 2021. The plan includes gasification of Pavlodar, Ust-Kamenogorsk and Kokshetau as well.

“More than 2 billion tenge (US$6.3 million) was invested in  the project. We plan to invest 20 billion tenge (US$63 million) more to significantly increase productivity of the gas supply in the next four years,” said Saulidi.

The starting point for the creation of this project was a speech by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev about general gasification, which was subsequently supported by a resolution and approved within the general scheme of Kazakhstan gasification.

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New app makes learning Kazakh language easier

16 hours 37 min ago

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


ASTANA – A new app has been launched to make learning the Kazakh language, as well as facts about the country and its history, easier and fun.

Photo credit:

The app was developed by Intellection Studio headed by London School of Economics and Political Sciences graduate Bakytzhan Baizhikenov. The Qazaq App for iOS and Android is designed as a game and so far has 3,500 registered users and 5,000 downloads.

“It is like a journey of a batyr [an honorific term that means “hero”] along the cities of Kazakhstan that can be recognised by their famous sites. Every city presents itself as a chapter of a lesson. By passing through a chapter, batyr conquers Kazakhstan, city after city,” Baizhikenov explained in an interview with The Astana Times.

Each chapter has three subchapters, which have several lessons. Each of those lessons has words and phrases in the Kazakh language dedicated to a certain topic, such as basics, family, home, nature, pets, food and others.  

Apart from translation, every word comes with a picture that helps to visually remember a word, making the learning process easier and more interesting. A voice transcription (spelling) allows users to learn punctuation, according to Baizhikenov.  

Bakytzhan Baizhikenov. Photo credit: Facebook

After every lesson learnt, a user is awarded with baursaks (fried dough) as scores. Users can compete with each other by baursak scores.  

Interaction, a patriotic interface and the sounds of dombras playing after lessons are learnt are additional features that make this application different from others. Kazakh proverbs are available in the Russian language as well.

“The app is easy to use thanks to its intuitive and minimalistic design. You will get to know new words, listen to their spelling and back it all up with the help of a test that a user needs to do after every lesson,” Baizhikenov added.

A language selection became available within the app, following recent updates. Foreigners will also now be able to learn Kazakh with Qazaq App through the English.           

Qazaq App has users of different age range from all cities but mostly from Almaty.   
“We are planning to develop a complete online service for learning the Kazakh language. Qazaq App is a first step on a path to a great and important goal for us, which is increasing the amount of people who are fluent in the Kazakh language,” Baizhikenov mentioned in an earlier interview, according to the Facebook page of the Activ Mobile Phone Company.

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Bank mergers: expert opinion and outlook for 2017

16 hours 53 min ago

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

ASTANA – Since the fall, the country’s major banks have continued to announce their intentions to merge. The latest, regarding Tsesna Bank’s plan to buy out Bank CentreCredit shares, is a move that has spurred numerous controversies and discussions.

Rumours of a possible merger between Qazkom and Halyk Bank broke off in November and KazInvestBank lost its license a month later. In January, Qazkom representatives admitted they were engaged in talks about a possible merger with Halyk Bank, followed by the move by Tsesna Bank to buy out Bank CentreCredit’s shares. At the same time, President Nursultan Nazarbayev publicly encouraged the National Bank to use rigid means towards weaker banks in times of survival.

“Only four banks hold 80 percent of bank assets in the country. [This comes] in a world struggling with crisis – major corporations merge, such as Exxon and Mobil, Shell and British Gas, for instance. The shareholders put up their own money if they want to save the banks. There is no alternative way to save them. The economy doesn’t need them; hence, they do not have the right to live,” said the head of state, encouraging the National Bank to bold moves.

“When assessing the financial stability of banks, one of the most important indicators is the debt to equity ratio (financial leverage D/E),” economist Timur Abilkasymov told “The higher the ratio, the lower the financial stability. A very low index indicates a bank’s slow business activity.”

He added as of Jan. 1, the following banks had high financial leverage: ATF Bank (16), Bank CentreCredit (12.8), Tsesna Bank (11.6), RBK (11.4), Qazaq Banki (10.5), Sberbank (10.2), the Bank of Astana (10.2), AziyaKredit Bank (10) and VTB Kazakhstan (9.8).

Abilkasymov believes that to improve the stability of the financial data, banks must increase equity and reduce the share of loans overdue more than 90 days to below 10 percent. According to the National Bank of Kazakhstan, VTB Kazakhstan has 16.1 percent of non-performing assets, ATF Bank (12.1), Sberbank (9.2), Bank CentreCredit (8.9), Kaspi Bank (8.7), Halyk Bank (8.6), AziyaKredit Bank (8.3), Eurasian Bank (7.9), ForteBank (7.5), Qazkom (6.3), Tsesna Bank (4.2), RBK (4.2), Bank of Astana (4.03) and Qazaq Banki (2.8). In general, for the year the country’s banks have improved the performance of the share of loans overdue more than 90 days.

Abilkasymov believes the mergers are a necessity for Kazakhstan’s banks and for economic stability.

Astana Best Consulting Group economist Arman Baiganov feels the recent situation with the national currency, namely the devaluation and the free-floating policy, has left many banks in a difficult situation.

Smaller banks are now coerced into merging, he added, as they find it difficult to vie with larger local competitors, not to mention Russian banks, which are in better shape thanks to the country’s slightly improved economic situation.

Tsesna Capital Chairperson of the Board Samat Balkenov thinks these mergers might leave foreign banks in troubled positions, as their market share would be significantly less and the competition for each customer will be tougher.

“Based on the statistics from the National Bank, as of Jan. 1 there are six second-tier banks out of 33 in total with the share of loans and payments overdue more than 15 percent – people need to pay attention to them in the first place. In this case, of the six banks four have foreign participation – Zaman-Bank (44.9 percent), National Bank of Pakistan in Kazakhstan (33.1 percent), VTB Bank Kazakhstan (22.7 percent) and Sberbank (17.9 percent),” he said.

BRB Invest Director Galim Khusainov earlier told the media that at the present time, Kazakhstan simply doesn’t have the market for 30 banks.


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Ministry of Justice and World Bank to strengthen forensic services

16 hours 58 min ago

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

ASTANA – A project to strengthen forensic capacity was launched in October by the Ministry of Justice and the World Bank. Introduced at an international convention in December, the project will operate for two years and has already begun to identify a number of areas for improvement.

Leader of Strengthening Forensic Capacity project Yury Bikbaev

“We are concentrating on key performance indicators at the lab level, legislature and regulation at the systemic level and enhancing skills at the individual expert level,” said project leader Yury Bikbayev in a Feb. 16 interview.

“Tying it all together and proposing a new model in just two years may be challenging, but we are rather excited by this tremendous opportunity,” he added.

Forensic science has been a subject of many debates in the recent past, especially after the United States began conducting a number of groundbreaking studies in 2009. Much debate centred on the scientific aspects themselves, often questioning the validity of conclusions and documenting how it affected the lives of people throughout the justice system. The need for reform and more systemic approaches were evident, but some components were still missing to facilitate cardinal change.

Kazakh forensic services have recently undergone significant change. Minister of Justice Marat Beketayev emphasised further development of the nation’s justice system requires improving many different institutions, including forensic expertise.

The minister added the transition of forensic medicine from the purview of the Ministry of Healthcare to the Ministry of Justice was completed in July, placing forensic expertise run by the state under one roof. The Centre of Forensic Expertise and Centre of Forensic Medicine are currently being merged to create one entity.

“I had discussions with many international experts and practitioners in search of best practices, latest strategies and lessons learned. A number of prominent experts praised the logic of combining the two centres to seek better governance and efficiency,” said Bikbayev.

While improved governance and more efficient operations systems and procedures are the project’s key priorities, addressing forensic expertise across its select types and at the level of individual experts is a special task in itself.

“We are planning to train more than 200 forensic experts overseas,” said Saule Zhakselekova, the training component’s deputy project leader and coordinator. “It will be a significant undertaking which, according to the overall agreement, will require involvement of project partners such as PricewaterhouseCoopers to assist with planning and logistics and we are paying special attention to identifying forensic expertise globally to suit the needs and demands of Kazakhstan.”

Project partners King’s College London, a leading British university which has been conducting forensic research since the 1970s, and Key Forensic Services, a top private forensic provider in the UK, are expected to host groups of Kazakh experts.

KAZGUU University, the lead consultant to the Ministry of Justice on the project, is also supported by Astana Garant Consulting to assist with key performance indicators and QPA Strategies for international expertise.    

The project pays particular attention to supporting further development of private sector providers of forensic expertise. One option is to create a chamber of private forensic experts to foster growth.

“British and American experiences are of course of interest and relevance, with New Zealand’s approach worth special attention,” said Bikbayev. “But we have to be very careful in suggesting something which is truly most suitable to Kazakhstan given its unique conditions and dynamics. The project aims to achieve just that.”                     

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Kazakh government services app receives award at World Government Summit

Fri, 2017-02-17 08:42

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

ASTANA – Kazakhstan’s mobile application was named the best “one stop shop app” in the first World GovTechioneers competition at the February 12-14 World Government Summit (WGS) in Dubai.

The Android, iOS and Windows phone app was launched in late 2014 and offers86 e-services, including a “Mobile Personal Cabinet” where a citizen can view his/her personal data from national databases. It also offers a map of government services, such as notaries and kindergartens, and allows users to make suggestions to improve public services. The app had more than 1.6 million users at the end of 2016.

The World GovTechioneers competition was launched in December 2016 to encourage global government entities to enhance their services, implement smart government initiatives and develop partnerships to identify innovative solutions to challenges facing the world. The contest received thousands of nominations since its launch.

The competition includes three main categories: Blockchain Virtual GovHack, Best m-Government Service, and Best Emerging Technologies in Government. It highlights leading projects in the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence, drones, statistical data, nanotechnology, autonomous cars, block chain transactions, virtual reality, and 3-D printing.

The winners of the World GovTechioneers Race, selected by an impartial judging panel, were awarded on the third day of the WGS, Feb. 14.

Kazakh Minister of Information and Communications Dauren Abayev, who headed the country’s delegation to the summit, accepted the award presented by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Emir of Dubai.

“This is a deserved award for our team of highly skilled professionals, who put a lot of effort into this project. It’s also an incentive to develop the industry,” Abayev said.

Also at the summit, Abayev discussed Kazakhstan’s experience in the field of digitilisation and the “Digital Kazakhstan” programme with the Minister of Economy of the UAE Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri. The sides also discussed the hub Astana plans to create within the Smart City project and agreed to cooperate in the technology sector to develop digital transformation.

Abayev also discussed cooperation and progress in modernising public services, procedures simplification and public services management with UAE Minister of State for Happiness Ohoud Al Roumi.

The WGS 2017 attracted more than 4,000 people from 139 countries and featured 150 speakers over 114 sessions.

The attendees included leading figures from the public and private sectors globally, ministers, decision makers, chief executive officers, innovators, officials, entrepreneurs, academics and university students.

President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim, Prime Minister of Bhutan Tshering Tobgay and UAE Minister of State for Tolerance Lubna Khalid Al Qasimi delivered keynote speeches at the event. The summit attendees were Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Issues like the end of globalisation, how technology is breaking borders, treating extremism and the source of nuclear energy were key topics discussed during the summit. Participants of the three-day event shared best practices in government agencies’ work and talked about their vision of the future government.

The WGS included participation of seven world and international organisations who are also strategic partners of the summit, including the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, UNESCO, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the World Economic Forum.

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Second round of Syrian talks in Astana adopt mechanism to monitor ceasefire

Fri, 2017-02-17 02:47

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

ASTANA – Another two days of talks on strengthening the ceasefire regime in the nearly six-year-old Syrian conflict ended Feb. 16 in Astana with the adoption of a document to formalise monitoring of the ceasefire.

The document will guide the activities of a joint operational group to be formed by Russia, Turkey and Iran that was agreed to be set up during the earlier meeting in January in Astana. The document is also meant to guide confidence-building measures among the opposing sides.

Photo credit:

The parties also agreed during the talks to continue discussions of a mechanism to exchange corpes and prisoners, including women and children, said Russian Foreign Ministry Special Envoy for the Mideast Settlement and Director of the Department of the Middle East and North Africa Sergei Vershinin during a Moscow-Damascus-Astana teleconference following the talks.

The meetings were meant to also create a positive momentum in support of Feb. 23 peace talks in Geneva.

In addition to representatives of the trilateral monitoring group, the Feb. 15-16 meetings were attended bythe Syrian Arab Republic’s delegation headed by Syria’s Permanent Representative to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari and the Syrian armed opposition delegation representing nine groups and being headed by the political leader of Jaish al-Islam Mohammad Alloush. Representatives of the United States, Jordan and the UN attended the talks as observers.

Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Akylbek Kamaldinov opened the talks’ plenary session expressing Astana’s hopes that the meetings on Syria would make a tangible contribution to the UN-led Geneva process and ultimately result in a comprehensive peace agreement on Syria.

“Kazakhstan, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2017-2018, will make every effort to address issues of regional and global security. In this regard, we are prepared to further contribute to the process of Syrian settlement,” Kamaldinov said.

He highlighted that all the meetings in Astana were held in a constructive manner, and showed the importance of the Astana platform created with the support of President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

In a press briefing following the end of talks, Al-Jaafari emphasised that Damascus is committed to taking all steps to comply with the ceasefire regime in order to stop the bloodshed.

He said Turkey “cannot be fanning the flames and extinguishing them at the same time.” Al-Jaafari accused Turkey of continuing to facilitate the entry of “tens of thousands of mercenaries” to Syria and said the talks ended without a final statement because of the late arrival of the Turkish delegation and the Syrian opposition.

Alloush, in his turn, said all opposition groups represented at the talks would as well take measures to support the shaky truce.

Despite the objections of the Syrian armed opposition concerning Iran’s participation, the decision to establish the joint Russia-Turkey-Iran group was approved.

“We also discussed mechanisms to establish control over the ceasefire regime. Russia mentioned a brief document in response to the document that we presented,” Alloush said at a press conference.

The head of the Syrian armed opposition emphasised his delegation’s commitment to acting in the interests of the people of Syria, who have suffered a lot over the six years of the conflict.

Head of the Russian delegation and Representative of the Russian President on Syrian settlement Alexander Lavrentiev noted that “the Astana platform is not confined to military matters on Syria, the parties might as well engage more closely with political issues.”

He also stated that there were two more documents that hadn’t been signed in Astana. One of them sets the procedures of identifying and preventing violations and provides for sanctions against violators of the truce. The other deals with areas that are under the control of moderate Syrian armed opposition groups that have signed the Dec. 29 ceasefire agreement. Lavrentiev said, both documents might be adopted within less than a month.

The Feb. 15-16 talks followed two previous rounds of Syria negotiations in Astana. The first meetings were Jan. 23-24 and were the first to include both the Syrian government and the Syrian armed opposition. Representatives from Russia, Iran and Turkey also attended as well as representatives of the UN and the United States who attended as observers. The trilateral group, as well as observers from Jordan and the United Nations, met again Feb. 6 to discuss mechanisms to monitor the ceasefire.

The Russian delegation’s Vershinin said the Astana meeting was “another important step” towards bringing the ened of the conflict closer.

Al-Jaafari also said that the Geneva meeting “needs to take into account the Astana-1 and Astana-2 results and resolutions so that they become a basis for the work in the upcoming meeting.”

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Spanish ambassador praises relationship on 25th anniversary of bilateral ties

Fri, 2017-02-17 01:52

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

ASTANA – Spanish Ambassador to Kazakhstan Pedro Jose Sanz Serrano praised the relationship between Kazakhstan and Spain Feb. 11 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of bilateral relations.

“We have had many visits and both embassies, Kazakhstan’s in Madrid and Spain’s in Astana, have been always active, having good relations with authorities,” said the ambassador. “In 2009, our states signed a strategic relationship document, which is a kind of privilege, because we don’t have such documents signed with all countries. I could name it a milestone in the bilateral relationship. In 2010, Spain supported Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in the OSCE.”

Pedro Jose Sanz Serrano

He also addressed ongoing efforts to increase bilateral trade.

“In 1996, total trade turnover between Spain and Kazakhstan amounted to eight million euros. We reached the peak in 2013 with 297 million euros worth of Spanish exports to Kazakhstan and 1.6 billion euros in Kazakh exports to Spain. Later, we didn’t reach such numbers. In 2015, we had almost 1.2 billion euros in trade turnover from both sides. Last year, the number decreased even more, reaching only 682 million. The decrease is probably connected with currency devaluation,” he said.

“There are many different sectors in which our countries cooperate. Spain imports different raw materials, including oil and metals from Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan imports clothes, construction materials, machinery and spare parts for the machinery. For example, Talgo railroad cars and Airbus planes,” the ambassador said.

“Of course, this isn’t enough. Much more should be done. I think that we should have more business. For instance, we could have more Spanish goods represented in local supermarkets,” he added.

The ambassador also emphasised that participation in EXPO 2017 is considered a top priority for him this year. He said, “We aspire to have a great pavilion there, much visited to promote our technologies and cultural wealth among people of Kazakhstan,” he said. “This year, Spain’s participation in the Expo will become one of the milestones of our relationship.”

The Spanish ambassador also noted that Madrid has supported Kazakhstan’s membership on the UN Security Council from the beginning. He also said bilateral cultural exchange is an important part of the relationship.

“Cultural exchange between the states is another of our priorities. We try to promote that with our possibilities, supporting the new Romance Studies Centre in Al Farabi [Kazakh National] University in Almaty. I found that really many people in Kazakhstan want to study Spanish. Especially, young people. The embassy is cooperating with Abylai Khan [Kazakh University of International Relations and World Languages] and Eurasian National University as well,” said the ambassador.

He added that he believes the Spanish and Kazakh people have much in common.

“You like music as Spanish people do. You like parties and we do. We are very far away. That is true.  But only geographically. Not in the heart. There are many things that are similar in our countries,” he discussed.

“It is only my personal feeling, but I know that our people both like communicating with family members. I mean getting together, have lunches and dinners. The sense of family is very similar in our both countries,” he said.

The Spanish embassy in Kazakhstan annually celebrates the National Day of Spain, a holyday shared with the Spanish speaking countries in America, on Oct. 12.

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Kazakh Armed Forces sergeants receive vocational training

Fri, 2017-02-17 01:42

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

ASTANA – More than 40 sergeants from Kazakhstan’s Armed Forces are attending month-long vocational training at the Defence Ministry’s cadet corps, the press service of the ministry reports.

These 40 sergeants are among 500 expected to receive training. During the training, the sergeants must elevate their skill level, become more efficient and supplement military and practical know-how throughout positions they are holding.

This year, the sergeant training includes a new advanced programme covering topics, such as the history of creating and developing the sergeant corps, leadership, consulting and training procedures, explained Temirbek Khalykov, a master sergeant of Armed Forces, head of Department on working with non-commissioned officers of the Armed Forces’ general staff, according to the ministry’s press service.

“A programme of instruction is designed for a multifaceted development of the sergeant corps. Amidst professionalising the army, this is one of the priority directions of further development of the country’s Armed Forces as a whole,” the statement says.

The coursework is a form of professional training for military personnel. Seven levels from basic level to courses for sergeants of troops, squadrons, divisions, staff headquarters, depot complexes and regimentals are specified for non-commissioned officers in the Armed Forces.

The training is held at training depots and military bases of the Cadet Corps of the country’s defence ministry.

Field firing training is meant to improve field craft and cohesion of subdivisions under simulated battlefield conditions, according to the press service.

Under instructions from Kazakh Minister of Defence Col. Gen. Saken Zhasuzakov teams to control and observe the progress of the training were sent off to all area commands.

The best methodologists of military troops for conducting field firing created an environment catered to shooting with all kinds of weapons both at land and air targets, separate targets as individual defence, port firing of fighting vehicles and armoured trucks, firing in the dark using night vision sight and grenade throwing.

When the field fire training is held, most of the focus goes to correcting tactics, proficient weapon use in combat, firing direction and strict compliance with security procedures.

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Third IMAX Theatre Opens in Kazakhstan

Thu, 2017-02-16 04:00

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

ASTANA – Kazakhstan’s third IMAX theatre has opened in Astana’s Sary-Arka Shopping Centre as part of the Kinopark cinema chain.

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The new theatre is IMAX’s third collaboration with Kinopark, and it won’t be the last, senior vice-president of IMAX business development in the region John Schreiner said in a press release from the Kinopark 8 IMAX of Sary-Arka Shopping Centre.

“The region has good potential with relation to film distribution as a whole and therefore with a good platform at hand we are ready to review projects in Kazakhstan’s other cities too,” he said.

Up to 30 films are released into Kazakhstan’s IMAX venues each year. At present, IMAX’s share of fees amounts to more than 15 percent from Kinopark’s general box office. The company expects that the flow of visitors to Sary-Arka will increase up to 25 percent when the IMAX screen opens.

“We see a big future for this format. I am sure that the brand new movie hall will create additional serious traffic for the shopping centre, as happened with Keruen shopping centre, where the flow of visitors increased by a quarter,” said Zhanna Nalayeva, head of projects for the Kinopark chain. The increased foot traffic will help not only the food court, but the mall’s shops, she said.

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Opening IMAX venues in the country’s regions and building a laser hall with a screen more than 18 metres tall are some of the plans the Kinopark Company and IMAX Corporation are creating together.

IMAX Corporation specialises in motion-picture technologies and large-format motion-picture presentations. Collaborating with museums and education institutions is an essential part of the corporation’s activity.

More than 450 million people have been entertained in IMAX theatres since 1970, according to As of September 2016, there were more than 1,100 IMAX theatres in more than 70 countries, with 92 of them in educational institutions around the world.

Kinopark is a leading cinema chain with eight movie theatres in Kazakhstan’s four cities. The overall number of theatre halls amounts to 54 while auditorium seats are 8,136 in total, the press release stated.

Kinopark uses IMAX, Dolby Atmos technology in its cinemas.

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EXPO 2017 construction site impresses US experts

Thu, 2017-02-16 03:55

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

ASTANA – A U.S. State Department official praised the progress of EXPO 2017 preparations after a recent visit to the expo site, according to the Astana EXPO 2017 national company.

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“We looked at the international exhibition pavilions and I saw a huge amount of work carried out by the organisers. I am very impressed. At the same time, we are witnessing a great interest among the international community towards EXPO 2017. Therefore, we will make every effort to worthily represent our country, one of the technological leaders in the world, at EXPO 2017,” Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs of the U.S. Department of State William Todd said, according to a company press release.

Todd arrived in Astana to discuss preparations for the event with Chair of Astana EXPO 2017 Akhmetzhan Yessimov. Over the past year, management of the company held 150 formal events, including 36 meetings with foreign delegations headed by high officials. At present, 115 countries and 18 international organisations have confirmed their participation in the exhibition dedicated to Future Energy. Thus, according to the number of participating countries, EXPO 2017 has become one of the most successful in the history of exhibitions.

The international specialised exhibition will take place June 10 to Sept. 10 in the capital of Kazakhstan and is expected to receive than five million visits.

To date, 19 countries and one international organisation have started working on their pavilions at the EXPO site.

“We have transferred 20 international pavilions to EXPO 2017 participants, including 19 countries, such as Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Japan, Jordan, Hungary, South Korea, Malaysia, Monaco, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, the UAE, and Vietnam, as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO),” Astana EXPO 2017 company said.

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Nurly Zhol programme created 100,000 jobs in 2016

Thu, 2017-02-16 03:44

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

ASTANA – More than 100,000 jobs were created as part of the Nurly Zhol programme in 2016, said Minister of National Economy Timur Suleimenov at a Feb. 14 governmental meeting. The programme is designed to spur economic growth, particularly in the construction in transport, housing and social sectors.

“At the end of the year, 469.6 billion tenge (US$1.46 billion) or 99 percent were disbursed on target transfers. The incomplete budgeting was caused due to savings on public procurement,” said Suleimenov.

Last year, 151.3 billion tenge (US$471 million) was allocated for the road sector development with full disbursement of funds. The construction and road works were completed on 611 kilometres of roads. As a result, the Astana – Temirtau, Almaty – Kapshagai and Astana – Petropavlovsk roads were opened. This year, the work in this direction will be continued,” the minister said.

Engineering and communication infrastructure were provided for housing projects in all regions of the country and 2,208 kilometres of engineering networks were constructed. The supply of infrastructure to the business projects as part of the Business Road Map programme 2020 is also underway.

“The development of infrastructure in the field of education is of special attention. The total elimination of emergency schools and three-shift learning will be provided by 2018. Currently, 52 objects including 35 schools and 17 kindergartens were opened,” he said.

In 2016, 739 billion tenge (US$2.3 billion) was allocated for the implementation of the Nurly Zhol programme. As a result, it has had a positive impact on economic growth and GDP growth amounted to 1 percent.

In 2017, 387 billion tenge (US$1.2 billion) was allocated for the initiative to ensure economic growth with an expected contribution to GDP growth of 0.5 percent.


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Local designer participates in prestigious UK emerging designer exhibition

Thu, 2017-02-16 03:34

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

ASTANA – Kazakh designer Ruslan Kim will show his ready-to-wear collection at the International Fashion Showcase exhibition (IFS) initiated by British Fashion Council and British Council as part of the London Fashion Week Feb. 17-21.

IFS is a series of fashion-installations that demonstrate the works by beginning and ambitious designers from 26 countries and present their vision of the national modern culture.

Founder of the Ruslan PANAMA brand, Kim graduated from Instituto Marangoni Fashion School in London. He had internships at Tom Ford, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Damir Doma and collaborated with British Vogue.

After the release of his first collection at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Almaty 2014, Kim was recognised as one of the most promising designers in the country.

“I presented this collection at the Vogue Fashion Night Out Almaty 2015. The collection is inspired by women of Paris. I wish that our young girls and women also master this minimalist style with charm and light frivolity,” Kim told The Astana Times.

Ruslan Kim

The collection represents modern, streamlined shapes with a crucial wearability, designed to make a new generation of successful, cosmopolitan women look confident and on trend across the globe.

The collection is currently presented only at Sprezzatura boutique in Paris with prices ranging from 35,000 (US$108) to 200,000 tenge (US$619).

Kim said that many local designers also face challenges in terms of production and the size range.

“I buy fabric abroad. We don’t have a cheap price range because tailoring services and fabrics are expensive. I don’t want to make clothing for a cheap price as this affects quality,” he said.

Kim was selected by the IFS jury among other candidates nominated by Kazakh experts and leading magazines in the field of fashion. The participation of the designer was supported by the embassy of Kazakhstan in London.

Designer Assel Nusipkozhanova presented her brand Assel at the exhibition in 2016.

This year, the exhibition, titled Local/Global, will be at the IFS Somerset House Museum with a focus on the interconnection of local and global phenomena in the world of fashion. Fashion is influenced by the environment, including nature, climate and cultural memory, social and historical changes that affect the forms of expression, performance techniques and materials. The characteristics of each country are a source of different ways to design and to produce outfits and the individual aesthetics of each culture is one of the dialects of the global fashion language.

The event is an important part of the London Fashion Week and promotes the role of fashion in contemporary culture.

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Kazakh stuntmen to star in new Russian historical film

Thu, 2017-02-16 03:16

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

ASTANA – Members of Kazakhstan’s famous Nomad Stunts will star in the Russian historical film “Tobol.” The acrobats recently visited the city of Tobolsk to see the set and scenery.

Photo credit: Nomad Stunts

The movie will narrate the events that occurred under the rule of Peter the Great, according to producer Oleg Urushev. Filming will start in March with a brawl scene involving 300 people.

The plot is based on the conflict between Tobolsk governor Matvei Gagarin and Dzhungar khan Tsewang Rabtan, said stunt group founder and leader Zhaidarbek Kunguzhinov. The khan maintained vigorous diplomatic and trade relations with Russia, which, however, were complicated by the conflict of 1714-1715. The stuntmen will play Dzhungar characters.

“Both Kazakh and Russian stuntmen will work together on the film. Our team is responsible for the equestrian stunts, fight and fencing scenes. Additionally, the Nomad Stunts will act as stand-ins for Russian actors. We will fall from heights, burn in fire and fly away from blasts. In general, there will be much work to do. Just like we did for the films ‘Viking’ and ‘Kolovrat,’ our Kazakh group will be completely responsible for the battle scenes, including the pyrotechnics, explosions and rigging,” Kunguzhinov told the Kazakhstanskaya Pravda newspaper.

The team is currently preparing for the shoot, developing new stunts and fighting scenes. For increased efficiency on set, the group films every new stunt and sends the footage to the directors for their opinion and approval.

“This greatly simplifies the process of shooting a stunt on the set, and, in addition, it increases the performance quality,” said Kunguzhinov.

Zhaidarbek Kunguzhinov on the set. Photo credit: Nomad Stunts

“Tobol” will be directed by Igor Zaitsev, known for his work in films such as “Kanikuly Strogo Rezhima”(“High Security Vacation”) and TV series “Velikaya” (“The Great”), “Yesenin,” and “Chkalov.” He will visit Almaty in the end of February to meet the Nomad Stunts.

“We will discuss every stunt in detail, to understand what we should work on more. Developing a stunt is work from scratch, because we cannot repeat the same tricks. It is important to undertake the preparations correctly and have a clear goal. For example, for Sergey Bodrov’s film ‘Mongol,’ a horse rider had to simultaneously take out two swords from behind his back. No one had done this before. The director really liked the piece and it matched the entire movie scene. Since the release of the film, the stunt has become somewhat a classic,” Kunguzhinov said.

The stunt group is also preparing special protection for the acrobats and warm bedding for the horses so they do not fall on the hard, icy ground during the harsh Siberian winter.

“Filming will take place in extreme cold and mostly at night when the temperature drops even lower. In general, the project will be challenging and thus very interesting. We will try to do our job perfectly,” said Kunguzhinov.

Founded in 2003, Nomad Stunts is known worldwide. The Kazakh team has starred in the American drama web television series “Marco Polo,” Kazakh epics “Nomad” and “Myn Bala” (“Thousand Young Warriors”), American 3D fantasy action film “47 Ronin” and Russian dark fantasy action film “Day Watch” directed by Timur Bekmambetov.

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15 countries to present cuisines at EXPO 2017

Wed, 2017-02-15 02:43

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

ASTANA – Fifteen countries are getting ready to present their national cuisine at EXPO 2017 with more than 10,000 square metres of the exhibition area to be allotted for commercial catering facilities.

Daulet Yerkimbayev, director of the Astana EXPO 2017 commercialisation department announced interim results on competition among catering renters, according to the company’s press service.

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“The organisation of restaurant service on such large-scale events is a key and necessary aspect. It is important that services meet the expectations of different customer groups, starting with the top officials and delegates of member countries, ending with the residents and guests of the capital. To date, approximately 15 countries, including Italy, Germany and Poland are planning to organise the catering facilities offering their national cuisine,” Yerkimbayev pointed out.

According to report, 40 catering facilities will occupy at least 10,000 square metres of the exhibition area.

“Restaurants, bars and coffee shops will welcome EXPO 2017 guests on the ground floor in the commercial pavilion. The first floor will feature fast-food outlets similar to shopping malls. Catering facilities will offer services available to all social strata of the population and income levels,” said the report.

“We have announced the competition at the end of 2016. Business sector is largely involved in the process. On a competitive basis, we have determined 71 percent of renters. In rigorous selection of renters, we paid particular attention to the quality of service, experience in the market and pricing policy. Companies and business sector are welcome to the participation in the contest and further cooperation. This is a great chance for our domestic producers to demonstrate their capabilities,” Yerkimbayev reiterated.

According to the national company, 115 countries and 18 international organisations have officially confirmed their participation in the international specialised exhibition dedicated to the theme of Future Energy. EXPO 2017 will last from June 10 to Sept. 10.

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