Kyrgyzstan's new prime minister Ulukbek Maripov addresses parliament

[Newsletter] The last prime minister of Kyrgyzstan?

This is a copy of our newsletter dated 8 February 2021. Sign up here to receive it directly in your inbox every Monday.

This newsletter is dedicated to post-Soviet Central Asia. Each week, we let you know the latest from the region. Question, comments, suggestions? Write to us at [email protected]

Above: Ulukbek Maripov is the new prime minister of Kyrgyzstan (Photo:

In the news

Hello from Novastan! This week we’re looking at a new government in Kyrgyzstan, Talibans in Ashgabat, journalism in Kazakhstan and more…

Ulukbek Maripov is the new prime minister of Kyrgyzstan. The new, deeply restructured, cabinet has only 16 members. Ulukbek Maripov could go down in history as the last prime minister of Kyrgyzstan, as President Sadyr Japarov stated his intention to abolish the position on his Telegram channel (KG) last week. “The post of the prime minister will be abolished, as well as overlapping government positions,” the message states.

The new cabinet also shows Japarov’s desire to “optimise the government”. As Radio Azattyk (RU) points out, the number of deputy prime ministers has been halved, from four to two. In addition, the number of government ministries, agencies and committees has gone from 48 to 12. Only five ministries remain intact, with all the others subject to restructuring or mergers.

The leadership of Turkmenistan’s ministry of foreign affairs met with Taliban representatives on 6 February, reports (RU). The delegation was apparently in Ashgabat to express their support of the TAPI, a planned natural gas pipeline which would go from Turkmenistan to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan. As Eurasianet notes (EN), this is good news for Turkmenistan, which has been looking for buyers for its natural gas besides China.

In Kazakhstan, the activist Maks Bokaev was released on 4 February after serving a 5-year sentence for his involvement in organising protests. The day before, the journalist Lukpan Akhmedyarov, was detained (RU) on his way to cover Bokaev’s release. There is also a criminal case (RU) against Lukpan Akhmedyarov for “disclosure of data from pre-trial proceedings or a closed trial” because of an article he published alleging corruption in Oral (Ural’sk in Russian), in western Kazakhstan.

Covid-19 in Central Asia

As of 8 February 2021, there have officially been 373,698 cases, 4,682 deaths and 349,240 recoveries. In more detail:

– Kazakhstan : 196,115 cases, 2,540 deaths, 176,744 recovered
– Kyrgyzstan: 85,113 cases,  1,431 deaths, 81,714 recovered
– Uzbekistan: 79,162 cases, 621 deaths, 77,564 recovered
– Tajikistan: 13,308 cases, 90 deaths, 13,218 recovered (no new cases according to official figures)
– Turkmenistan: 0 cases, 0 deaths, 0 recovered

Turkmenistan still officially states Covid-19 is entirely absent from the country despite many signs to the contrary.

Tajikistan, as we mentioned last week, has declared itself Covid-free, but experts say the country’s authorities are an unreliable source (EN) when it comes to coronavirus figures.

Our photo of the week

Kyrgyzstan Arslanbob Irina Unruh village market
A morning in Arslanbob (Kyrgyzstan) by Irina Unruh. Click on the picture for more information.

Every day, we publish a photo from Central Asia. You can find it on our website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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And finally, if you’d rather listen to Viktor Tsoi than read the news (don’t we all), we recommend the 1988 Soviet film Igla.

Thank you for reading! See you next week for more information and analysis from Central Asia. For daily updates, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram.

Irina Unruh
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