POLITICS | 09:50 / 17.01.2023
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15 min read

“This means losing a part of our independence” – Activists dwell on the Kremlin’s “proposal”

“We have no right to sell our children into slavery, thinking about our enjoyment”. “What is happening should be communicated and explained to the people as much as possible”. Uzbek activists say that Russia’s conditions for supplying gas to Uzbekistan are unacceptable. According to Kun.uz sources, the Kremlin used migrants as weapons in these negotiations.

Photo: Kun.uz

The fact that Russia wants to take control of the country’s gas transport networks and Uzbekistan’s gas exports to China, in exchange for gas transmission to Uzbekistan, is causing serious concerns and protests among Uzbeks.

The Kun.uz correspondent collected the opinions of a number of public activists in this regard.

Hamid Sodiq, political scientist

- I heard that Russia “offered” to deliver its gas to Uzbekistan through Kazakhstan, through the “Central Asia – Central” pipelines.

Instead, they are demanding the transfer of Russia-Uzbekistan’s gas transportation system to Gazprom at the market price and the right to export gas to China. This can be called an energy war specific to Russia.

After the events of Andijan in 2005, the work of the Russian company Lukoil developed. In 2007, gas was extracted from the Khavuzak-Shodi Dengizkul gas field for the first time, in 2011, 10 billion cubic meters of gas were extracted from this gas field, and in 2015, 30 billion cubic meters of gas were extracted.

Energy resources, especially gas, are at the center of conflicts of the Russian Federation with Georgia, Ukraine and the European Union, and the pressure that is exerting on them.

The problem is that Russia is not the central issue in this case. We ourselves are creating the conditions for geopolitical influence with “inaccuracy”. The “gas” blow aimed at Europe hit us with a “ricochet”.

There are two important areas of reform for Uzbekistan, and they require each other. First of all, our country needs political reforms and an inclusive government formed by elections based on the principles of democracy. Second, it is necessary to take seriously considered actions to ensure energy independence. Today, our country has become like a dragonfly in Krylov’s parable, which spent the summer singing and became weak even in front of an ant.

Energy security should be invested instead of “passives” consisting of various expensive activities and many palaces that require excessive daily expenditure.

Lola Saidova, chief researcher of the Institute of Strategic and Interregional Studies under the President

- Handing our energy systems over to Russia means selling the Motherland. It is absolutely impossible to give the reins of this strategic sector to another country.

In legal terms, this is called a crime against state independence. Therefore, this proposal made by the Kremlin should be qualified by Uzbekistan as an attack on state sovereignty.

It also represents the crisis in the management of Uzbekistan. Systematic solutions must be sought immediately.

Bakhodir Ganiyev, an expert on educational issues

- Regardless of what is offered in exchange, our gas systems cannot be given to Russia at all. This means losing a certain part of Uzbekistan’s independence to Russia.

Today, when the government representatives go to the people and say that “gas will come to you, but we will risk our independence through this, and we will have to lose a certain part of it”, the people will choose independence, not gas. If it is explained to the people, they will endure both heat and cold.

These things should be communicated and explained to the people as much as possible. This is very important. I repeat, this issue is not a subject for any kind of negotiation or discussion.

Farrukh Jabborov, writer

- The people and the government must be united. The government should not hand the country’s wealth over to foreign forces in order to stifle the people’s discontent, to legitimize its illegal actions, and to temporarily silence the voice of the public who object to it. It’s no secret that the main reason for the overall energy crisis in Uzbekistan today is such a “betrayal”. As much as the mistake of 18 years ago is costing our people now, it is certain that we will pay an even bigger compensation tomorrow. We have no right to sell our children into slavery, thinking about our entertainment.

We have to solve our internal problems by ourselves, and completely get rid of the evil of waiting for help from outside. This applies to both the people and the government. When will we abandon the slavish psychology of seeing salvation in a change of master?! We have not yet shouldered the responsibility of building an independent state. The Uzbek people must deeply feel that this country is theirs and that this government is their servant. For this, we must stop the game of “democracy-democracy” and move to the path of development based on real legal-democratic principles.

In the anomalous situation caused by today’s anomalous cold, we must not be restricted to spasmodic measures, but start systemic changes. First of all, we must achieve a revision of any agreements concluded against the national interest.

Alisher Kadirov, chairman of the “Milliy Tiklanish” democratic party

- Independence should be a need that unites the people and the government in the face of any problem.

In recent years, major powers have been using the aggressiveness of very natural debates, which the people and the authorities must overcome together, to achieve geopolitical goals. Even today, when we talk about “freedom”, there is a layer that says “will you feed me?” Forces with long-term goals and interests in the region rely on this layer and use it very effectively.

It is no secret today that in all the former Soviet republics, there are pro-Soviet people who are effectively using the economic, political and social “mines” buried by the Soviet administration for future use. In the early years of independence, inter-ethnic conflicts were widely used, until recently, efforts were made to manage the situation through warring regional states and transport corridors, which had no alternative. Now, it may be the turn of long-prepared energy games with strong political-social-economic impact.

Anyway, we solve our problems ourselves.

I believe that we should support the government without doubting its patriotism as it struggles to solve difficult geopolitical and geoeconomic problems in a time of complex political upheaval. Today’s challenges should cause us to unite, not cling to each other’s collars.

We have yet to prove that we are not the ones who will give up their freedom in silence.

Abdurakhmon Tashanov, chairman of the “Ezgulik” human rights society of Uzbekistan

- In fact, any mutually beneficial agreements serve the country’s prospects, including a beneficial economic or other form of union with the Russian Federation. However, the cooperation of the Russian government with the EU on energy issues has shown that this country is dishonest on many issues.

Indeed, if Uzbekistan accepts this country’s agreements on energy, it should not avoid the fact that the agreements may become a victim of political interests. Literally, the Russian Federation is a country whose future is at stake.

There is no doubt that Russia will take advantage of any agreements for its imperialist desires, just as China has its eye on the lands of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in debt relations.

We hope that the government of Uzbekistan is also thinking about what everyone is seeing. If it is not, the government will at the very least have a wrong and fraudulent policy and will leave a shameful name in history.

Olimjon Khaydarov, blogger

- Russia wants to give us gas in exchange for controlling the entire energy system of Uzbekistan. This means slavery for gas. We will not give up our independence in exchange for gas given for certain years.

I hope the government will show political will and courage in this situation.

***

For information, at the end of November, Russia proposed establishing a “tripartite gas union” to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. After that, several bilateral meetings were held on this issue.

Gazeta.uz, citing several sources, writes that Russia has offered to supply its gas to Uzbekistan through Kazakhstan in the “Central Asia – Center” pipeline network.

“The main condition of the Russian side was to transfer the gas transport system of Uzbekistan to the ownership of Gazprom at the market price. A similar demand was made to Kazakhgas company, but the company did not agree to such conditions.

The second condition put forward by the Russian side was the transfer of gas export rights to China. That is, Gazprom offered to take the place of UzGasTrade company of Uzbekistan in the agreement.

According to the results of bilateral negotiations in December, it was possible to remove the conditions from the Russian side,” the publication writes.

The Kun.uz source also confirmed the above information. He added that Russia demands that the agreement on the supply of gas to Uzbekistan be concluded for at least 10 years, not short-term.

Also, according to a source familiar with the situation, there is official opposition from Moscow to Tashkent to strengthen cooperation in the field of energy with any third country other than Russia. Otherwise, it is hinted that there will be serious problems for Uzbek migrants in Russia.

It should be noted that the Kremlin has officially denied that it is imposing political conditions on Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in exchange for gas. In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he was confident that “some kind of energy alliance” would be formed. However, neither Uzbekistan nor Kazakhstan wants cooperation with Russia in the gas issue to be in the form of a tripartite alliance. At the same time, both countries have confirmed that bilateral negotiations are underway with Russia on the issue of gas. Last week, the prime minister of Kazakhstan, Alikhan Smailov, said that Astana had not received an official proposal for a “tripartite union”.

The Minister of Energy of Uzbekistan Jurabek Mirzamakhmudov also said that Tashkent is considering working with Moscow on the basis of direct bilateral agreements, not in the form of “some kind of alliance or union” in the matter of importing energy resources.

“Based on national interests, negotiations are being conducted on cooperation on the basis of commercial contracts, not handing our networks over to someone else or any other way,” the minister said at the beginning of December.

“We will not allow any political conditions to be imposed. If the gas is brought to our border and given to us at a reasonable price, we will buy it, otherwise not,” Mirzamakhmudov said in an interview with Kun.uz.

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