Monochrome by Centil Law: Tensions

Atmospheric and political temperatures keep rising in Central Asia. The Stans prepare for the worst scenarios juggling both environmental and security threats as further expansions fuel tensions.

Investigation into Israeli spyware company NSO Group revealed that President Tokayev, current PM Mamin and former PM Sagintayev were targeted with the Pegasus surveillance system, supposedly by the Kazakhstani state. The spyware that raised tension around the world, infects cell phones without the targets’ interaction with the device and once installed, it extracts data, conversations, contacts, and call logs. It can even switch on microphones and cameras to silently record live audio and video.

Artel Electronics, a company of AKFA Group, was assigned a ‘B’ rating with a stable outlook by Fitch. The appliance and electronics manufacturer is the first private company in Uzbekistan to obtain a credit ranking by an international rating agency. In recent years, Artel improved its financial reporting processes by introducing a supervisory board and hiring auditors its consolidated IFRS accounts, indicating expansionist ambitions.

Uzbekistan plans to modernise 299 water pumping stations for €700m in the period between 2021 and 2026. It is expected that the modernisation projects will help save 80m kWh of electricity and $5m of budget funds annually. The first stage of the project designed to modernise 98 pumping stations requires investments of €146m, which the government intends to finance with foreign loans.

At the 15th International Aviation Salon held in Russia, Ural Civil Aviation Plant and the Kazakhstan Aviation Industry signed a $13.5m joint production agreement to manufacture light multipurpose aircraft Baikalat. With a 20% stake in the developer company Baikal Engineering, KAI will oversee the final assembly of the aircraft and sell it on the domestic and international markets starting from 2024.

The Cricket Federation of Uzbekistan started the construction of the first official cricket stadium in Tashkent, following the new grand expansions scheme of the International Cricket Council regarding the geography of the tournaments. The ICC announced that in the next commercial cycle from 2023-2031, the men's T20 World Cup will comprise 20 teams and will be held every two years.

Kazakh PM Mamin offered support to farmers in the Mangistau and Kyzylorda regions severely affected by droughts, caused by rare rainfall and hot temperatures. Hay for livestock feeding will be supplied from neighboring regions at below market prices, the cost for which will be reimbursed to the farmers by the state. For this, $4.45m from the state budget was allocated to the Mangistau Region alone.

By contrast, villagers of Tajikistan suffered from heavy rainfalls after extremely hot weather, resulting in floods and massive mudslides causing deaths and the destruction of key infrastructure, including houses, roads and bridges connecting the mountainous areas. Last week, heavy rains caused lethal mudslides in neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, thus adding environmental threat to the political threat in the region.

As the Taliban advance in Afghanistan and despite their promise not to overspill violence outside their borders, President Rahmon prepares for the biggest military exercise in the 30 years of Tajikistan’s independence, mobilising 100,000 active servicemen, 130,000 reserve officers and soldiers. As tensions rise, law enforcement agencies were sent to the Tajik-Afghan border to reinforce border troops.

At the same time, in anticipation of a security threat Russia and Uzbekistan agreed to hold joint military exercises on the Termez military field near the Uzbek-Afghan border from 30 July to 10 August and on Russia’s military base near the Tajik-Afghan border between 5 to 10 August. Feeling the tension, Turkmenistan is also reinforcing its military bases with heavy weaponry, helicopters, and other aircraft along its border with Afghanistan.

Tajikistan’s National Security Committee confirmed that all Afghan refugees were returned to Afghanistan. Amongst them, 345 ethnic Kyrgyz were also returned to their home settlement in Afghanistan, despite the request by the Kyrgyz government to help them reach Kyrgyzstan. In the previous weeks, Tajikistan accepted over 1,000 Afghan refugees, including 18 military troops fleeing death at the hands of the Taliban.

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