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Cablegate: Lifestyles of the Kazazhstani Leadership

VZCZCXRO1604
PP RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHLH RUEHPW
DE RUEHTA #0760/01 1081035
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 171035Z APR 08 ZEL
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2248
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0478
RUCNCLS/SCA COLLECTIVE
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 0110
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 2159
RUEHDE/AMCONSUL DUBAI 0130
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1899

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ASTANA 000760

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C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (ADD "CLASSIFIED BY" LINE

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/17/2018
TAGS: PGOV PINR KZ
SUBJECT: LIFESTYLES OF THE KAZAZHSTANI LEADERSHIP

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CLASSIFIED BY POL/ECON CHIEF STEVEN FAGIN, REASONS 1.4
(B) AND (D)

-------
Summary
-------

1. (C) Kazakhstan's political elites appear to enjoy typical
hobbies -- such as travel, horseback riding, and skiing. Not
surprisingly, however, they are able to indulge in their
hobbies on a grand scale, whether flying Elton John to
Kazakhstan for a concert or trading domestic property for a
palace in the United Arab Emirates. This cable recounts
several instances in which Embassy officers have learned of,
or witnessed, the recreational habits of Kazakhstan's
leaders. End Summary.

--------------
Sun and Horses
--------------

2. (C) President Nazarbayev, like many of his countrymen, has
a strong affinity for horses. In 2007, emboff visited the
presidential horse farm with the daughter of the farm's
manager. The farm is located on the outskirts of Astana in a
residential area, but is surrounded by a high-fence and
security guards. Inside the gates are a large stable, indoor
and outdoor riding arenas, and a clubhouse with a pool table,
sauna, and exercise room. Emboff toured the stable and saw
approximately forty horses from various parts of the world.
Emboff's companion told him that Nazarbayev visits the horse
farm on occasion, though not too frequently. She said that
Nazarbayev's wife -- Sara Nazarbayeva -- never accompanies
him, but claimed that sometimes his "second wife" comes to
the horse farm. (Comment: Most Kazakhstanis are familiar
with the rumor that Nazarbayev has a "second wife," a former
airline stewardess, who is said by some to reside in London.
More recently, there have been whispers that Nazarbayev has
yet a "third wife," a former beauty queen. We have no
concrete information about either relationship, although
Taszhargan, an opposition newspaper, printed a sympathetic
article about Sara Nazarbayeva which expounded on her status
as Nazarbayev's "co-wife." End Comment.)

3. (C) Nazarbayev is also fond of traveling to warmer climes
in the region. The UAE Ambassador told emboff that Nazarbayev
had traded property in Borovoe -- a mountainous resort area
of Kazakhstan north of Astana and sometimes likened to
Switzerland -- for a "palace" in the Emirates. He did not
make clear whether the transaction was a permanent
arrangement or only a temporary one. The head of Turkey's
liaison office in Astana, Orhan Isik, told emboff that
Nazarbayev has a mansion in Antaliya, which he visits 4-5
times a year. Isik claimed that Nazarbayev received the
property as a gift in the early 1990's and now plans to use
part of the land for the construction of a luxury hotel.

------------------------
Dancing at the Nightclub
------------------------

4. (C) On March 7, two days after his trip to the U.S. was
cancelled, Prime Minister Masimov was spotted by emboff at
Chocolat, one of Astana's trendiest nightclubs. Masimov
entered at approximately 11:30 pm, accompanied by
Presidential Administration head Kairat Kelimbetov, Astana
mayor Askar Mamin, three middle-aged Kazakh women (presumably
their wives), and a security detail. Although the club
offers a VIP area, Masimov chose to sit at a table in full
view of all of the club's patrons. Emboff lingered close to
Masimov's group and saw several bottles of alcohol on the
table. (Note: Another emboff had seen the group drinking
earlier in the evening at a cigar bar at the Radisson Hotel,
which is located in the same complex as Chocolat. End Note.)
Masimov led his companions on to Chocolat's dance floor soon
after their arrival. The dance floor holds approximately 100
people, and at the time perhaps 50 patrons were dancing.
However, Masimov himself chose to dance on an empty stage
above the dance floor. His companions quickly tired but
Masimov remained, dancing alone and animatedly on the stage
for another 15-20 minutes. At approximately 1:00 am, Masimov
and his retinue left the club.

-------------------------
Skiing with the Oligarchs
-------------------------

5. (C) In September 2007, Kazakhstani oligarch Aleksandr
Mashkevich -- the co-founder of metals and mining giant
Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation and, according to

ASTANA 00000760 002.4 OF 003


CLASSIFIED BY POL/ECON CHIEF STEVEN FAGIN, REASONS 1.4
(B) AND (D)

Forbes magazine, the 334th wealthiest man in the world --
hosted a dinner at his house in Almaty for two visiting U.S.
congressmen. Only two Kazakhstanis attended the event, State
Secretary Kanat Saudabayev and his assistant. Judging from

SIPDIS
the friendly banter between Saudabayev and Mashkevich, the
two have a quite cordial personal relationship. Mashkevich
told a lengthy anecdote about a ski vacation that he and
Saudabayev had taken together in Europe.

6. (C) Saudabayev had hosted a codel at that same Almaty
residence in 2005, without Mashkevich in attendance. At that
time, when the Ambassador asked Saudabayev whose house it
was, he would only say that it belonged to "a friend."
Saudabayev has twice hosted visiting USG officials for a meal
at Mashkevich's Astana residence -- both times without
Mashkevich. It is not clear what Mashkevich is spending his
billions on, but it is certainly not culinary talent. On all
four occasions the Ambassador has eaten at one of his houses,
the menu has been similar and focused on beshparmak (boiled
meat and noodles) and plov. The wait staff appeared to be
graduates of a Soviet cafeteria training academy. The wine,
at least, was somewhat upscale with reasonably good French
vintage bottles uncorked for the guests. The Astana
residence has wooden plaques on the doors that would fit in
nicely in a Wyoming hunting lodge but are somewhat out of
touch with the upscale "Euro-remont" that is so popular among
the Kazakhstani elite.

-------------------------------
Private Concerts with the Stars
-------------------------------

7. (C) In 2007, President Nazarbayev's son-in-law, Timur
Kulibayev, celebrated his 41st birthday in grand style. At a
small venue in Almaty, he hosted a private concert with some
of Russia's biggest pop-stars. The headliner, however, was
Elton John, to whom he reportedly paid one million pounds for
this one-time appearance. (Note: The British Ambassador
relayed a slightly different story, with an unknown but
obviously well-heeled friend arranging and paying for Sir
Elton's gig. End Comment.) There have been separate
reports that Nelly Furtado performed at the August 2007
birthday bash for Kulibayev's wife, Dinara Nazarbayeva.
Kulibayev also appears willing to spend his fortune on
others. According to Turkish diplomat Isik, when the
Kempinski group recently built luxury villas in Bodrum,
Turkey, Kulibayev bought up a number of them -- at a cost of
4-5 million dollars each -- and doled them out as gifts to
friends and family.

-----------------------
Sports and Politics Mix
-----------------------

8. (C) Sports and politics mixed seamlessly in Almaty on
April 2, when some of Kazakhstan's most prominent political
figures participated in the Beijing Olympics torch relay.
Torchbearers included President Nazarbayev, Presidential
Administration business affairs head Bolat Utemuratov, Nur
Otan party first deputy chairman Adilbek Dzhaksybekov, and
Agency for the Regulation of Natural Monopolies head Mazhit
Yesenbayev. All of these bigwigs, except Nazarbayev himself,
could justify their participation in the relay based not on
their high-ranking political offices, but rather on their
prominent official positions in the Kazakhstani sports world.
Utemeratov just happens to head Kazakhstan's Tennis
Federation, while Dzhakysbekov chairs the Football Federation
-- a position previously held by ex-Nazarbayev son-in-law
Rakhat Aliyev. Yesenbayev heads the Judo Federation.
KazMunayGaz chairman Uzakbay Karabalin, who heads the Boxing
Federation, and Nazarbayev son-in-law Timur Kulibayev, who
heads the Golf Federation, also shared in the glory of
carrying the Olympic torch. One prominent sport federation
president who missed the torch call was Defense Minister
Daniyal Akhmetov. He is head of the scandal-ridden Cycling
Federation that sponsored a team in last year's Tour de
France which flunked the drug test.

-----------------------------------
Relaxation the Good, Old Soviet Way
-----------------------------------

9. (C) Kazakhstan's political elites also have recreational
tastes that are not so exotic. Some, in fact, prefer to
relax the old-fashioned way. Defense Minister Akhmetov, a
self-proclaimed workaholic, appears to enjoy loosening up in
the tried and true "homo sovieticus" style -- i.e., drinking

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CLASSIFIED BY POL/ECON CHIEF STEVEN FAGIN, REASONS 1.4
(B) AND (D)

oneself into a stupor. While most of our accounts of
Akhmetov's indulgences with the bottle are hearsay, we do
have "eyes on" for one episode which supports the rumors. In
June 2007, Akhmetov showed up in grand form for a meeting
with a visiting senior U.S. Defense Department official.
Making no attempt to conceal his condition -- slouching back
in his chair and slurring all kinds of Russian participles --
Akhmetov explained to this very senior guest that he had just
been at a cadet graduation reception "toasting Kazakhstan's
newly-commissioned officers." Who was toasted more -- the
Defense Minister or the cadets -- is a matter of pure
speculation. Akhmetov's excesses do not solely extend to the
bottle. An insider at Astana's Radisson Hotel recently told
us about preparations for the unbelievably lavish and
expensive wedding of Akhmetov's son. In the Kazakh
tradition, the parents of the groom are responsible for the
wedding -- so it would seem that Akhmetov must have footed
the bill.
ORDWAY

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