Chronology: Central Asia and the Caucasus

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Jan. 16: Turkmen state media announced that Minister of Oil and Gas Oraznur Nurmuradov would be replaced by his former deputy, Bayramgeldy Nedirov. The dismissal, reportedly due to "unsatisfactory performance," was one of several made by President Gurbanguli Berdymukhammedov, who also formally reprimanded highranking officials. Nurmuradov only held the position for three months. [RFE-RL, 1/16]

Jan. 18: Zhaksybek Kulekeev, former head of the Kazakh national railway company, accepted a senior position at the state-owned oil and gas company KazMunaiGaz. Kulekeev was fired from his position with the railway company in 2008, charged with bribery, and sentenced to three years in prison. Critics claimed that the position with KazMunaiGaz was the government's way of rewarding Kulekeev for not implicating the government in his corruption trial. [RFE-RL, 1/18]

Jan. 20: Former Foreign Minister and Uzbek Ambassador to the US Abdulaziz Komilov was appointed First Deputy Foreign Minister. Analysts believed this appointment could have been a sign that Komilov - reportedly a KGB general in the 1970s - was a potential successor to President Islam Karimov. [RFE-RL, 1/22]

Jan. 21: The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic announced it would sell Russian gas company Gazprom one billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas in 2010 and twice that amount in 2011. This was a large increase from the 500 million cubic meters agreed upon in 2009. Analysts postulated that this sudden grab for resources was Russia's attempt to prevent the construction of new pipelines, like the proposed Nabucco pipeline, that would bypass Russia and weaken the country's hold on the European market. [EurasiaNet, 1/22]

The Kyrgyz Constitutional Court approved several amendments to the constitution put forward by President Kurmanbek Bakiev, one of which eliminated the state secretary position and the Security Council, while rejecting his proposal for the not-yet-created Presidential Council to appoint an acting president in emergencies. Opposition party members felt the reforms were Bakiev's attempt to consolidate power under the office of the president, his relatives, and his confidantes. [RFE-RL, 1/21]

Jan. 22: A building unexpectedly collapsed at Dariyal-U, a former Soviet radar station in Kazakhstan, killing at least four people. Those killed were suspected of looting, and several others fled the scene amidst concerns that they had been exposed to toxic materials. Environment Minister Nurghali Ashimov was expected to declare the site an "emergency environmental situation" in December 2009, but the announcement never came. [RFE-RL, 1/27]

Jan. 24: Turkmen students who were forbidden by the Turkmen government to return to the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) in Bishkek after their summer vacations were allowed to transfer to the American University of Bulgaria and continue their studies. Turkmen government officials said that the AUCA curriculum was not up to their standards while denying the students the opportunity to transfer. The ban was lifted after President Berdymukhammedov criticized the Director of the State Migration Service. [RFE-RL, 1/27]

Jan. 26: As part of the continued effort to close the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, an Uzbek prisoner was transferred to Switzerland. At the time of the transfer, 192 prisoners were still incarcerated in the facility. [Reuters, 1/26]

Jan. 27: The Kazakh non-governmental organization (NGO) For The Free Internet reported that KazTeleCom, a major Kazakh Internet provider, blocked 14 websites, including social networking and opposition websites. [RFE-RL, 1/27]

Kazakhstan announced that it would allow NATO to ship supplies through its territories to troops in Afghanistan. The overland route would make it possible to ship goods from Europe, through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and into Afghanistan, bypassing the dangerous Khyber Pass route in Pakistan. …