The Financial Express reported that in Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan, on 19th December, people in oil workers’ uniforms toppled a Christmas tree and sound equipment set up on the main square for Independence day festivities. The police opened fire on an unarmed crowd, escalating a conflict between sacked oil workers and the Kazmunaigaz oil company. At least 14 died and 80 were wounded.
Workers have been on strike for months for higher wages and the ‘authorities’ have had the town’s phones disconnected, radio equipment prohibited and the main road blocked. Riot police patrol the town – above.
Tony Blair’s consultancy team
Mr Blair’s consultancy team has been engaged to improve the reputation and business links of the oil and gas-rich country. Former No10 chief of staff Jonathan Powell and former Director of Communications and Strategy Alastair Campbell have recently visited Kazakhstan.
An open letter to the Middle East Peace Envoy
This morning the Mail Online reports that fifty opposition leaders – including young politicians, youth workers and journalists – in the former Soviet state wrote an open letter published in the opposition newspaper Respublika, calling for the former British premier to resign as advisor to their president Nursultan Nazarbayev. Headlined: ‘Blood on Your Hands, Blair!’ excerpts quoted include:
‘It is known that you were an adviser to the bloody dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
‘The whole world saw with its own eyes that he used weapons against civilians in his country, trying hard to suppress the riots. The bloody scenario of Libya was repeated in Kazakhstan.
‘The leadership of Kazakhstan in peacetime opened fire and shot at unarmed citizens. Such bloody methods are being used in our country since you became an adviser to President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
‘You are an adviser to Kazakhstan’s leadership. Why within the last seven months were authorities deaf to the demands of oil workers? And finally, they shot at its citizens?’
‘We once again urge you to resign from the position of presidential adviser and to stop co-operating with the criminal regime.’
A spokesman for Mr Blair said: ‘Tony Blair’s team has been advising on the Kazakhstan government reform programme. He has had no role in this dispute. But the president has promised an inquiry.’