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Joanna Lillis

Astana, Kazakhstan
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About Joanna
Joanna Lillis is a journalist based in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Languages
English
Services
Feature Stories Content Writing Corporate Content
+6
Skills
Fact Checking
Portfolio

Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan

03 May 2024  |  Audiobooks.com
Joanna Lillis provides an in-depth look at Kazakhstan, highlighting its strategic position in Central Asia, its complex history, and its development into a monocracy under former President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The book covers events including Nazarbayev's fall from power, the Chinese government's actions against Kazakhs in Xinjiang, and the January 2022 events in Almaty.

Rich West to Become Green Hydrogen Hub

27 Oct 2023  |  www.intellinews.com
Western Kazakhstan aims to become a leading global exporter of clean energy through a $50bn deal with Svevind to build one of the world's largest green hydrogen production facilities. The Hyrasia One project will use renewable energy to produce hydrogen, targeting production by 2030. The project is expected to create thousands of jobs and support emerging hydrogen markets in Europe and Asia. Despite logistical challenges, the region's favorable conditions and existing expertise in energy exports are seen as advantages. The EU's demand for green hydrogen, driven by a shift away from Russian gas, presents a significant market opportunity.

China warns against meddling in Kazakhstan ahead of Putin meeting

10 Oct 2023  |  www.intellinews.com
Chinese President Xi Jinping has expressed strong support for Kazakhstan's territorial integrity during his visit to Central Asia, signaling a warning to Russia against interference. This visit precedes a crucial meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. Xi's statements underscore China's intent to assert its interests in Central Asia amidst the ongoing geopolitical tensions following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The article highlights the strategic importance of Kazakhstan to both China and Russia, and the delicate balance of power in the region.

As Russian economy sputters, UK lures Central Asian labour migrants

05 Oct 2023  |  www.intellinews.com
The economic downturn in Russia due to sanctions and the war in Ukraine is causing a significant drop in remittances sent home by Central Asian labour migrants, impacting households in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. As Russia becomes less attractive for these migrants, the UK is emerging as an alternative destination, particularly for agricultural work. The UK has started recruiting workers from Central Asia to fill Brexit-related labour shortages, with high demand for these positions. The World Bank predicts a substantial decline in remittances to Central Asia this year, highlighting the risks of economic dependence on migrant cash flows. The UN has urged Kyrgyzstan to reduce its reliance on remittances to avoid long-term economic harm.

Afghanistan pays electricity debts to Uzbekistan but still owes Tajikistan

01 Aug 2023  |  www.intellinews.com
Afghanistan has cleared its multimillion-dollar electricity debt to Uzbekistan for 2021 and is up-to-date with payments for 2022. The exact debt amount was not disclosed, but it was part of a $100 million total owed to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Tajikistan, however, has not received full payment and is still owed $28 million. Afghanistan imports over 80% of its electricity, primarily from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, under long-term agreements. Both countries have continued supplying power despite the debts. Uzbekistan has also agreed to resume a stalled power supply line project with Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan heatwave spells power problems for Central Asia

19 Jul 2023  |  www.intellinews.com
Kyrgyzstan's state power supplier has warned of potential energy shortages as a heatwave drives record power consumption. On July 19, electricity use surged by 20% compared to the same day in previous years, largely due to increased air conditioning use. The Toktogul reservoir, which supplies 40% of Kyrgyzstan's electricity, is depleting rapidly, posing risks for Kyrgyzstan and neighboring countries that rely on it for water and energy. The National Energy Holding urges consumers to conserve electricity to maintain system reliability.

U.S. slaps secondary sanctions on Uzbekistan firm

28 Jun 2023  |  eurasianet.org
The U.S. has imposed secondary sanctions on Uzbekistan's Promcomplektlogistic Private Company for its involvement with the Russian firm Radioavtomatika, which is under U.S. sanctions for procuring items for Russia's defense industry. This action, marking the first time a Central Asian company has been sanctioned in this manner since the invasion of Ukraine, aims to prevent collusion in sanctions evasion and sends a warning to others against dealing with sanctioned Russian entities. The sanctions will exclude Promcomplektlogistic from the U.S. financial system and prohibit American companies from transacting with it.

Kazakhstan-Russia frictions over Ukraine war go public

17 Jun 2023  |  eurasianet.org
At the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, tensions between Kazakhstan and Russia over the Ukraine war became public. Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev rejected territorial claims made by Russian commentators and reaffirmed his country's stance of not recognizing Moscow-backed breakaway territories in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin's remarks about the former Soviet Union being 'historical Russia' raised concerns among former Soviet states. Russian MP Konstantin Zatulin responded to Tokayev's comments with threats to Kazakhstan's territorial integrity. Tokayev also addressed incorrect statements about Kazakhstan by Russian pundits and rejected the notion that Kazakhstan owes Russia for its assistance during civil unrest in January.

Uzbekistan sees bread prices skyrocket

01 Jun 2023  |  intellinews.com
Bread prices in Uzbekistan have surged following the government's cessation of grain purchase subsidies amid the Ukraine war's impact on global food supplies. A standard loaf in Tashkent increased by 75%, causing public concern. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev's market reforms, including the end of state regulation of flour prices, aim to boost domestic flour output and incentivize private millers. Despite the Anti-Monopoly Committee's call for calm, the price hikes have potential for popular discontent. Mirziyoyev has warned against unjustified price increases, labeling them as sabotage.

Uzbekistan sees bread prices skyrocket

01 Jun 2023  |  intellinews.com
Bread prices in Uzbekistan have surged following the government's cessation of grain purchase subsidies amid the Ukraine war's impact on global food supplies. A standard loaf in Tashkent increased by 75% overnight, and a flatbread by about 25%. The Anti-Monopoly Committee called for calm and offered hotlines for price gouging reports. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev's market reforms, including the end of state regulation of flour prices, aim to incentivize private production and increase domestic flour output. Despite the price hikes, the government expects liberalization to boost grain production and reduce imports. State-run grain producer Uzdonmahsulot, now competing with private millers, has been less efficient and accumulated significant debt. Mirziyoyev has warned against unjustified price increases, labeling them as sabotage.

Russians flock to Central Asia to open sanctions-busting bank accounts

08 Apr 2023  |  bne.eu
Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, nearly 12,000 bank accounts have been opened by Russians and Belarusians in Kazakhstan, an 8% increase, to circumvent financial sanctions. Kazakhstan's financial regulator reported this surge, emphasizing that due diligence and ID checks are conducted. Russians and Belarusians, as part of the Eurasian Economic Union, enjoy simplified residence and employment rules in Kazakhstan. Additionally, Russian travel agencies are attracting clients to Uzbekistan with special packages for opening bank accounts.

Russians flock to Central Asia to open sanctions-busting bank accounts

08 Apr 2023  |  eurasianet.org
Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, nearly 12,000 bank accounts have been opened by Russians and Belarusians in Kazakhstan, an 8 percent increase, to circumvent financial sanctions. The total number of accounts now stands at 162,000, with the majority being personal accounts. The influx is facilitated by the Eurasian Economic Union's simplified rules, although no special advantages are given for obtaining ID numbers or opening accounts. Due diligence and ID checks are conducted for new customers. Additionally, Russian travel agencies are offering tours to Uzbekistan for the purpose of opening bank accounts.

Kazakhstan to Strengthen Screening of Re-exports to Russia

24 Mar 2023  |  The Moscow Times
Kazakhstan is set to implement an online system to monitor goods entering and leaving the country to avoid aiding Russia in bypassing Western sanctions. This move is part of Kazakhstan's efforts to comply with Western sanctions while maintaining its trade relations with Russia. The system will come into effect on April 1, and aims to prevent the re-export of sanctioned goods to Russia. Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi highlighted the challenges of balancing relations with Russia and the West. The Eurasian Economic Union's trading regime complicates sanctions compliance, as evidenced by increased exports of advanced semiconductors from Kazakhstan to Russia. The U.S. and Kazakhstan are collaborating to ensure compliance, with the U.S. providing advance warnings of potential secondary sanctions.

Kazakhstan poised to intensify vetting of re-exports to Russia

23 Mar 2023  |  intellinews.com
Kazakhstan is set to launch an online system in April to monitor goods entering and exiting the country, aiming to prevent the circumvention of Western sanctions against Russia. Despite not applying sanctions to Russia, Kazakhstan seeks to avoid secondary sanctions and maintain relations with both Russia and Western countries. The country faces challenges due to its membership in the Eurasian Economic Union with Russia and the increase in re-exported goods like advanced semiconductors. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has noted a rise in intermediated trade that may help Russia bypass sanctions. The US and Kazakhstan have been cooperating to prevent sanctions evasion, and no secondary sanctions have been imposed on Kazakhstan, though an Uzbek company has been penalized. Kazakh officials are advising businesses to be cautious in trading with Russia under the current conditions.

Sanctioned Russian Buys Into Kazakh Airport in Border Region

14 Feb 2023  |  The Moscow Times
A Russian airports operator, Airports of Regions, has acquired a stake in the Oral airport in northwestern Kazakhstan, aiming to develop it as a regional hub to serve travelers affected by flight shortages due to the war in Ukraine. The consortium, Oral Airport Holding, includes Kazakh investors holding a 51% stake. The airport, currently state-owned, will see investments in security and infrastructure upgrades. The involvement of sanctioned Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg raises concerns about Kazakhstan becoming a route for sanctions-dodging, though the government is keen on attracting investment to meet rising demand.

Kazakhstan: Smuggling still rife on border with China

09 Feb 2023  |  www.intellinews.com
Over a year after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered a crackdown on smuggling at the Sino-Kazakh border, contraband remains prevalent. Ardak Tengebayev of Kazakhstan’s Supreme Audit Chamber reported significant underreporting of goods exported from China to Kazakhstan. Discrepancies in customs data have been attributed to different reporting methods and alleged incompetence in customs administration. Tokayev's anti-smuggling efforts were seen as a move against the economic influence of Nursultan Nazarbayev's family. Despite initial progress in reducing the disparity between Kazakh and Chinese customs statistics, the gap has widened again, with recent figures showing a 34-38% discrepancy.

Trial over Karakalpakstan violence tests Mirziyoyev’s “New Uzbekistan”

01 Feb 2023  |  vlast.kz
The trial of 22 individuals accused of inciting violence in Karakalpakstan concluded with long sentences, amid claims of a separatist plot. The court's ruling aligned with the Uzbek government's narrative, despite a lack of evidence. The unrest was sparked by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev's constitutional reforms, which threatened Karakalpakstan's autonomy. Critics argue the trial was unfair and failed to address the deaths of civilians. The violence and subsequent trial mark a potential end to Mirziyoyev's political reforms, with broader implications for Uzbekistan's future.

Kazakhstan moves uranium exports through Middle Corridor

04 Jan 2023  |  www.intellinews.com
Kazakhstan's state-owned nuclear company, Kazatomprom, has delivered a batch of uranium to Canada via the Middle Corridor, bypassing Russia due to sanctions. The Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR) has been used by Kazatomprom since 2018 as an alternative to the primary route through St. Petersburg. The shipment, which included contributions from Inkai, a joint venture with Canadian firm Cameco, faced delays due to infrastructure bottlenecks in Azerbaijan and Georgia. Freight traffic along the Middle Corridor has increased significantly since Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Kazakhstan also plans to export oil via this route.

Central Asia: Chinese cars race ahead

09 Nov 2022  |  www.intellinews.com
Chinese car manufacturers like Chery and BYD Auto are expanding in Central Asia, particularly in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, as Russian automotive firms face setbacks due to international sanctions. Chery has started selling four SUV models assembled at the ADM Jizzakh factory in Uzbekistan and plans to open 23 dealerships by 2024. The brand has seen significant sales growth in Kazakhstan, becoming one of the top-selling brands after entering a distribution agreement with Astana Motors. A new factory is planned to be built in the Almaty industrial zone by 2025 to produce cars for export to post-Soviet countries. Meanwhile, Kazakh car manufacturing has increased, with JAC becoming the fifth-most popular car in Kazakhstan. The sanctions on Russia have created an opportunity for Chinese manufacturers to fill the market gap, as many Japanese and European models were previously manufactured in Russia.

EU taps Kazakhstan for rare earths, green hydrogen

07 Nov 2022  |  www.intellinews.com
Europe is seeking supplies of rare earth metals and green hydrogen from Kazakhstan to meet its green economy targets. The European Commission signed an agreement with Kazakhstan to develop these supplies, focusing on economic integration, capacity building, and supply chain resilience. The agreement was signed during the COP27 climate change conference. Kazakhstan's green hydrogen ambitions are advancing, with significant agreements signed with European renewables group Svevind and Australian company Fortescue Future Industries. These projects aim to boost green hydrogen production and explore renewable energy opportunities in Kazakhstan.

EU taps Kazakhstan for rare earths, green hydrogen

07 Nov 2022  |  www.intellinews.com
Europe is seeking to secure supplies of rare earth metals and green hydrogen from Kazakhstan to meet its green economy targets. The European Commission signed an agreement with Kazakhstan to develop these resources, focusing on economic integration, capacity building, and supply chain resilience. The agreement was signed during the COP27 climate change conference. Kazakhstan's green hydrogen projects are advancing, with significant investments and partnerships, including a $50bn agreement with Svevind and a collaboration with Fortescue Future Industries. The initiatives aim to support the EU's green hydrogen import targets and enhance the sustainability of mining processes.

Kazakhstan profits from global sunflower shortage

10 Oct 2022  |  www.intellinews.com
Kazakhstan is experiencing a surge in sunflower oil production and exports due to global shortages caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine, previously the world's largest supplier, has seen its production and exports severely disrupted. Kazakhstan's exports have increased by 158% in the first seven months of the year, although they remain a small fraction of global consumption. Despite export restrictions to protect domestic supplies, local prices have risen by 15%. The US Department of Agriculture and Energyprom.kz provide statistical insights into the situation.

EurasiaChat: The week China displaced Russia in Central Asia

19 Sep 2022  |  eurasianet.org
Xi Jinping's visit to Central Asia marked a significant shift in regional power dynamics, with China gaining influence at Russia's expense. Xi's support for Kazakh sovereignty contrasted with Vladimir Putin's struggles to justify the ongoing war in Ukraine. Concurrently, violence between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan highlighted the ineffectiveness of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The episode also covered the renaming of Nur-Sultan and upcoming snap elections.

China warns against meddling in Kazakhstan ahead of Putin meeting

15 Sep 2022  |  intellinews.com
Chinese President Xi Jinping, during his visit to Kazakhstan, made a strong statement supporting Kazakhstan's territorial integrity and sovereignty, and opposed any interference in its internal affairs. This statement comes ahead of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Uzbekistan. Xi's visit marks his first trip outside China since January 2020 and is seen as a sign of Beijing's support for Kazakhstan amidst regional tensions with Russia. Putin is perceived as weakened due to recent Russian military setbacks in Ukraine.

Bribery is booming in Kazakhstan amid anti-corruption drive

21 Jul 2022  |  eurasianet.org
Kazakhstan has seen a significant increase in recorded bribery cases, with a 33% rise in the first half of 2022 compared to the previous year. The number of people caught giving bribes also increased by 13%. This uptick in arrests may reflect either a growth in corruption or a stronger political will to combat it, especially after the Bloody January protests fueled by anger over corruption. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has vowed to tackle corruption and oligopoly following the unrest. Efforts include recovering nearly half a billion dollars in assets linked to former President Nursultan Nazarbayev's relatives and associates. However, curbing corruption faces challenges due to resistance from within the system, as law enforcement and state officials constitute the majority of corruption suspects.

As Russian economy sputters, UK lures Central Asian labour migrants

17 Jun 2022  |  www.intellinews.com
The Russian economy's downturn due to sanctions and the war in Ukraine is causing a decline in remittances from Central Asian labor migrants, impacting families in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. As Russia becomes less attractive for migrants, the UK is emerging as an alternative destination, recruiting Central Asians for farm labor to address Brexit-related shortages. Kyrgyzstan's government has already signed an agreement to send workers to the UK, with a high number of applications for the available positions. The World Bank predicts significant drops in remittances to Central Asia, underscoring the risks of reliance on this income. While the number of Central Asians migrating to the UK is currently small, it represents a welcome alternative as Russia's economic future remains uncertain.

China hectors Central Asia to steer clear of big power politics

07 Jun 2022  |  www.intellinews.com
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged Central Asian countries to avoid involvement in geopolitical conflicts during his visit to Kazakhstan. He emphasized the need for regional stability and cooperation, warning against external forces drawing the region into major power conflicts. The meeting with Kazakhstani President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev focused on mutual concerns about the Ukraine crisis and China's support for Tokayev's domestic agenda. Discussions also included the potential construction of a China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway, indicating growing interest in regional transport links. Central Asian states have generally distanced themselves from Russia's actions in Ukraine without outright condemnation.

China hectors Central Asia to steer clear of big power politics

07 Jun 2022  |  www.intellinews.com
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged Central Asian countries to avoid involvement in geopolitical conflicts during his visit to Kazakhstan, emphasizing the need to resist external forces drawing them into major power conflicts. The meeting with Kazakhstani President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev highlighted concerns over the Ukraine crisis and China's stance against international sanctions on Russia. Discussions also focused on enhancing regional cooperation and infrastructure projects, including the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway. Central Asian governments are pushing for improved transport links with China, with potential agreements and construction plans in the pipeline.

Uzbekistan: China comes bearing gifts

24 May 2022  |  www.intellinews.com
The Chinese government has granted Uzbekistan nearly $40 million in aid for social projects, with a focus on healthcare, energy, and agriculture. Additionally, a long-discussed rail link between China and Uzbekistan via Kyrgyzstan may finally proceed, with construction potentially starting in autumn. The project aims to enhance Uzbekistan's connectivity and transit capabilities. Key agreements and discussions have taken place between Uzbek and Chinese officials, with Kyrgyzstan expressing strong optimism about the project's commencement. The financial burden of the railway, estimated at $8 billion, is expected to be shared among the three countries.

Afghanistan in hock to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan for electricity

18 May 2022  |  Eurasianet
Afghanistan owes Uzbekistan and Tajikistan $100 million for electricity supplies, but is unable to pay due to international sanctions against the Taliban government. The country imports over 80% of its electricity, primarily from Uzbekistan, followed by Tajikistan. Despite the debts, neither country has cut off power, which would affect over 10 million Afghans. The UNDP has linked the unpaid bills to the freeze on Afghanistan's assets and a decline in international aid since the Taliban's rise to power.

Amid sanctions, Kazakh firm stops supplying Russian steelworks

17 May 2022  |  www.intellinews.com
Kazakhstan's largest iron ore-enricher, Sokolov-Sarybai Mining Production Association (SSGPO), has ceased supplying ore to Russia's Magnitogorsk Iron and Steelworks (MMK) due to international sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. MMK, which previously sourced 70% of its ore from SSGPO, is now obtaining ore from Russian suppliers nearly 2,000 kilometers away. The halt in supplies has forced MMK to rely on plants owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov. The Kazakhstani company is seeking new buyers amid a global decline in steel demand.

Will landlocked Kazakhstan prove a lure for Russian beach bums?

01 May 2022  |  www.intellinews.com
Kazakhstan is being promoted as a new beach vacation destination for Russians facing travel restrictions due to sanctions and the war in Ukraine. Despite being landlocked, Kazakhstan offers beach vacations on the Caspian Sea, with Russian travel agencies comparing it to Turkey. However, the cost of vacations in Kazakhstan is higher than in Turkey, and there are concerns about service quality. The geopolitical situation and aviation sanctions have limited Russians' travel options, making Kazakhstan an attractive alternative.

Uzbekistan: Claims of cronyism dog business climate

20 Apr 2022  |  eurasianet.org
Uzbekistan's efforts to attract investors through a transparency mantra are being undermined by social media discussions and investigative reports suggesting cronyism among senior officials. The Pandora Papers implicated the wife of Deputy Prime Minister Sardor Umurzakov and the spouse of First Deputy Prime Minister Achilbay Ramatov, raising questions about conflicts of interest. The Orient Group, linked to President Mirziyoyev's family, was reported to have benefited from undervalued state asset transactions. Additionally, journalists faced intimidation when reporting on the opaque activities of a charitable foundation linked to another figure named in the Pandora Papers.

Don’t forget Afghanistan, pleads Uzbekistan, as Ukraine war rages

31 Mar 2022  |  www.intellinews.com
Amid the Ukraine war, a meeting in China to discuss Afghanistan became a platform for geopolitical posturing. Russia warned against US or NATO military presence in Central Asia and blamed the West for crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine. Uzbekistan's deputy foreign minister, Vladimir Norov, urged the international community to maintain focus on Afghanistan, warning against its neglect. China echoed calls for the US and NATO to take responsibility for Afghanistan's reconstruction. The meeting concluded with a joint statement urging responsible countries to fulfill their commitments to Afghanistan's recovery.
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