Date: Wed, 16 Aug 2017 16:25:04 +0200

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Aug 16, 2017 (AFP) - Uzbekistan's president Shavkat Mirziyoyev has signed legislation that from 2019 will allow citizens of the secretive ex-Soviet country to travel abroad freely for the first time, state media reported Wednesday.   The website of the Central Asian country's state broadcaster reported that a legal amendment scrapping the unpopular system of Soviet-style exit visas will go into effect from January 1, 2019.

Currently Uzbek citizens have to apply for exit visas from the authorities to leave the country, unless they are going to neighbouring ex-Soviet countries.   The authorities sometimes refuse such permission and applicants can face long delays without explanation.   The move will be seen as more evidence of a thaw under Mirziyoyev, 60, who took charge last year following the death of his autocratic predecessor Islam Karimov at 78.    Mirziyoyev previously served as prime minister under Karimov for 13 years.

The state broadcaster's report acknowledged that exit visas, which can take more than a month to process, "are a certain deterrent for the free movement of citizens of Uzbekistan."   Uzbekistan already allowed citizens to travel to several other ex-Soviet countries without requiring the exit visas, which are valid for two years.   The Soviet Union forced its citizens to apply for exit visas in an attempt to control emigration.   Ex-Communist Cuba only scrapped its exit visa policy in 2013, while Uzbekistan's former Soviet neighbour Turkmenistan removed exit visas in 2002.   North Korea has retained the system.

Late last year Uzbekistan also said it was scrapping entry visas for citizens of 15 mostly Western countries wanting to visit from April 2017.   Weeks later however it backtracked, and now says the visa requirement will only be lifted in 2021.   While observers have praised a number of reforms in Uzbekistan aimed at reducing the authoritarian excesses seen under Karimov, the security services are still viewed as wielding tremendous power in the country. 
Date: Mon, 9 Jan 2017 16:21:24 +0100

Minsk, Jan 9, 2017 (AFP) - Belarus on Monday announced it was scrapping visas for short-term visits by citizens of 80 countries in a move that could help open up one of Europe's most tightly-controlled states.   Strongman ruler Alexander Lukashenko signed off on a decree to allow visitors from across Europe and the United States to enter Belarus by air for stays of up to five days without a visa.    The new rules will come into effect in a month, an official statement said.

Landlocked Belarus -- once dubbed the last dictatorship in Europe by the US -- is one of the continent's most closed countries and currently only has visa-free travel with neighbouring Russia, other ex-Soviet states and some South American and Middle Eastern nations.  Ties between Belarus and the European Union have eased since the 28-nation bloc began lifting most of its sanctions on the country in 2015 after Lukashenko released high-profile political prisoners.    Minsk has close ties to former Soviet master Moscow, with Belarus part of an economic union with Russia and no border controls between the two countries.
Date: Mon, 9 Jan 2017 11:44:19 +0100

Moscow, Jan 9, 2017 (AFP) - Uzbekistan said Monday it was cancelling plans to expand visa-free entry to the country this year, putting off a move seen as opening up the reclusive nation.

The Central Asian nation's government said in early December that citizens of 15 countries, including Germany, Britain and Canada, would no longer need visas to enter the country starting in April.   The move came days after the election as president of interim leader Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who took control after the death of the strongman Islam Karimov in September, and was interpreted as a sign of a potential thaw in one of the world's most tightly-controlled nations.

But the new visa regime -- which was also set to include visa-free travel for French and American citizens 55 or older -- will only come into force on January 1, 2021, according to a presidential order signed in late December but only published online Monday.

Uzbekistan is home to Bukhara, Khiva and Samarkand, three cities considered jewels along the ancient Silk Road trade routes that connected Europe and Asia.    Thousands of tourists visit the cities every year but the visa regime in place for all but a few of countries has thwarted the growth of the tourist industry.    Neighbouring Kazakhstan earlier this month announced that it had lifted visa requirements for citizens of the European Union and OECD countries in a bid to boost investment and tourism.
Date: Tue, 6 Dec 2016 17:40:56 +0100

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Dec 6, 2016 (AFP) - Uzbekistan announced Tuesday plans to roll back its highly restrictive tourism regime by cancelling visa requirements for 15 countries in a sign that one of the world's most reclusive states may be opening up a crack.   An executive order that followed the victory of interim leader Shavkat Mirziyoyev in an uncompetitive presidential vote Sunday said citizens of the 15 countries would not need visas to enter the country after April 2017.

The presidential order published by Mirziyoyev's press service also clarified that citizens from 12 other countries -- including the United States and France -- can enter the country visa-free if they are 55 years old or older.   The policy change was made "in order to create a favourable economic and institutional conditions for intensive development of tourism as a strategic sector of the economy," according to the order.   Citizens of the following countries will be allowed to visit Uzbekistan visa-free for a period of 30 days regardless of age: Australia, Austria, Britain, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Canada, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Korea, Singapore, Finland, Switzerland and Japan.

Citizens aged 55 or over of these countries will be able to visit the country for tourism purposes for a period of 30 days: Belgium, Indonesia, China (as part of tourist groups), Malaysia, USA, France, Vietnam, Israel, Poland, Hungary, Portugal and the Czech Republic.   The age restriction for the second group of countries was not explained in the order.     Uzbekistan is home to Bukhara, Khiva and Samarkand, three cities considered jewels along the Old Silk Road trade routes that used to connect Europe and Asia.    Thousands of tourists visit the cities every year but the existence of a visa regime for all but a handful of countries and an onerous registration process has stymied the growth of tourism.    The changes may not lead to a relaxation of entry procedures for foreign journalists. 

Last month, security services detained and deported German journalist Edda Schlager after working on a tourist visa.    Uzbekistan remains one of the few ex-communist countries to maintain for its own citizens a system involving an exit visa, which is an official permit for people wishing to leave the country.    Mirziyoyev, 59, served as Karimov's prime minister for 13 years before his landslide election win with nearly 89 percent of the vote against three pro-regime opponents on Sunday.    Uzbekistan is a commodity-rich republic with a population of around 32 million and shares borders with Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
Date: Tue 4 Aug 2015
Source: AKI Press [edited]
<http://www.akipress.com/news:563024/>
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The State Veterinary Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources of Uzbekistan denied reports of some media about 19 people hospitalized with suspected anthrax in Samarkand region.

The information is not true, there were no patients with symptoms of anthrax in Samarkand or in other region, said Chief of the Veterinary Department Bakhram Narkobulov. He added the livestock was vaccinated against anthrax [in accordance with the preventive measures].

Constant control over the spread of the disease is held by the Veterinary Service, and all needed measures are taken, he stressed.

In summer, the heat intensifies the danger of spread of infectious diseases among the livestock. In this regard, the regional veterinary departments have intensified prevention works. Stable epizootic and epidemiological situation remains in all regions of the country, added Narkobulov.
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[We should note that our previous report was labelled 'suspected' because of the Uzbek statement: "The local health department said that the disease has not been confirmed yet." And thus, presumably the medical services were unable to confirm the initial diagnosis. But the CVD (chief veterinary doctor) only remarks on vaccination, not on any examination of the bovine carcass or meat.

Samarkand is in the middle of Uzbekistan:
<http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/commonwealth/uzbekistan.jpg>. - ProMED Mod.MHJ]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/35975>.]
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