Students And Policy Makers Face Each Other At Central Asian education forum

Dagmar Ouzoun, ETF country manager for Tajikistan with students,  Aziza Islamova (l) and Farsona Alimova (r) at the Central Asian Regional Forum on School Development in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on 25 September.

Photo: Dagmar Ouzoun, ETF country manager for Tajikistan with students,  Aziza Islamova (l) and Farsona Alimova (r) at the Central Asian Regional Forum on School Development in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on 25 September.

The ETF opened the Central Asian Regional Forum on School Development in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on 25 September.

This three-day long conference with discussions and workshops gathers managers of vocational education institutions, practitioners, policy makers, teachers, and education experts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and the European Union.

Two teenage students from Dushanbe’s Railway Machinist Lyceum reminded delegates at the conferencewhat vocational education is all about.

“As a child you dream of what you will become,” 17-year-old Farsona Alimova told teachers, policymakers and educationalists at a regional forum on school development for lifelong learning in Central Asia.

“Girls dream of being seamstresses or doctors; of taking care of people. Boys of becoming famous sportsmen.”

Those dreams may change, the first year student of accountancy said, but a vision of the future remains.

Policy makers must listen to young people

Fellow student Aziza Islamova, encouraged by Vincent McBride, the ETF’s senior human capital development specialist, to “be open – you are among friends here,” told of her wish that policymakers and college heads could understand and take into account the needs of young people.

The students’ contribution – rarely heard at international events focused on vocational education and training – came on the first day of the conference that brings together the coordinators of the ETF’s innovative Communities of Practice (CoPs) programme from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

Introduced two years ago, CoPs is a system that facilitates regular informal meetings of VET colleagues to discuss and review their professional and institutional practices and see how they can improve them.

By focusing discussions on partnerships, school planning, analysis of local conditions, training of trainers, school leadership and teaching and learning, it is hoped that management reforms can be made more effective.

Five year of ETF work on school devlopment in Central Asia

The scheme, part of a capacity building and policy dialogue initiative in VET and lifelong learning launched in 2009, also includes dialogue with policymakers.

Emin Sanginov, first deputy minister at Tajikistan’s Ministry of Labour, Migration and Employment, acknowledged the need to continue to improve quality in a VET landscape still recovering from years of post-Soviet neglect.

Recent research showed that 80 percent of Tajikistan secondary school leavers go straight onto the labour market without following any further or higher education.

The need to address the lack of skills in adult workers has prompted a drive to expand provision for lifelong learning and private sector incentives to encourage employer involvement in social partnerships with educational institutions, he said.

Improving VET key to economic wellbeing

“Improving quality in vocational education and training is key to Tajikistan’s social and economic wellbeing,” Sanginov said.

His comments were echoed by Istvan Nitrai, acting head of the EU delegation to Tajikistan, who said that, “the ETF’s commitment to education is fundamental to our work across Central Asia.”

In a region where “the majority of the population is under 30,” it was an EU priority to support the improvement of educational services, he added.

The CoPs programme seems to be helping in that: delegates at a preliminary session on 24 September said that sharing in informal professional groups was marked by “enthusiasm and openness.”

One remarked: “I felt that by doing this exercise it brought us closer together; these groups could be described as small families.”

Russian media is covering up Putin’s complicity in the MH17 tragedy

In Russia, errors like shooting down a Malaysia Airlines jet could not have happened, so they simply won’t have happened

A pro-Russian fighter holds up a toy found among the debris at the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines jet near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, Friday, July 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky) Photograph: Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

On Thursday in eastern Ukraine – where Russian-supported separatists have declared an autonomous state – a plane with civilians on board was shot down.

The plane did not crash and it did not “collapse” – as was written by some of the Russian media – it was shot down from the ground. We in Russia know this – if not from our own news organizations, then from several video commentaries, including one in which a little boy says, “Look! A junta plane has been shot down! Well done, DPR!” (The DPR is the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic, and the “junta” is the legally elected government of Ukraine – the typical way for Russian propaganda to refer to the present government in Kiev.) This child does not know – and may never find out – that the downed aircraft had children like him on board.

In their reporting on the tragedy, the Russian media defined the accident scene as “east of Ukraine”, forgetting the terms such as “New Russia”, “DPR”, “LPR” – the Lugansk People’s Republic, another separatist territory in Ukraine – for the evening. In the new Russia, such errors could not have happened, so they simply won’t have happened. Our government, and its collaborators in the media, will see to that.

The people do not need to see tragedies, they seem to believe – only victories of the Russian soldiers, the heroes of their homeland, and the brave patriots in eastern Ukraine that we should support.

The alleged Vkontakte page of Igor Strelkov, “patriot” and leader of the pro-Russian army in Donetsk, bragged that the DPR’s army shot down a Ukrainian AN-26 aircraft about a half hour after the tragedy. “We warned them not fly ‘in our skies'”, it said, without any photographs to prove it was a military plane. A few hours after going viral, the statement was removed. Friday, the author claimed that the dead bodies – reportedly seen falling through the air as the plane disintegrated – were already dead, another claim parroted by the media

Alexander Boroday, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed DPR (who was added to the US sanctions list a day before MH-17 was taken down) simply declared: “If it really was a passenger airliner, we did not do it”. This statement is a concise version of the position often adopted by Russian authorities: do not admit to anything, whatever happens, however obviously untrue.

Almost immediately after the tragedy, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko officially announced that Ukrainian troops were not involved in the attack on the airplane, noting that they didn’t even have weapons capable of shooting down a plane at that range. Russian President Putin responded to Poroshenko five hours later by accusing Ukraine of responsibility for the disaster – though all of Russian television media seem to have beaten him to that, at least after they finished repeating that it was a Ukrainian military transport plane that was shot down.

By this weekend, the international media will likely stop using the term “militia members” and nobody outside of Russia will call the Donetsk army representatives anything other than “terrorists”. Here, though, Putin will continue his support for the people that the West will call terrorists. The DPR’s anti-aircraft missiles – which everyone believes were used to shoot down the plane – were probably transferred from eastern Ukraine back to their Russia owners under cover of night, and records of their possession have already been erased from Strelkov’s page and widely denied by the separatists who were nonetheless seen using them. But in Putin’s Russia, you can’t believe your eyes. You have to believe what you are told.

There is too much evidence that the Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down by the pro-Russian DPR army. Not on purpose: it was a stupid, horrible accident, a mistake too easily made when people get confused (or are deliberately confused by their leaders), when inchoate rage and patriotism are aimed at a target as big as the sky. But rather than admit their mistakes, our leaders ask us to accept a lie. After all, as Duma representative Sergei Kalashnikov wrote, “Will it be any easier for you if you find out who shot the plane down?”.

It won’t be easy – but it is nonetheless necessary to find out who shot the plane down, though endless layers of propaganda will have to be shoved aside. And having to do so will make the discovery of the truth about this tragedy even more painful, once you understand all the forces that don’t want you to know the truth.

Russian President Launches Siberian Rail Upgrade

This could be the first step towards the realisation of a global railway that links east and west across the Bering Strait, about which I reported for The Times a couple of years ago (see: )


Vladimir Putin gives start to Baikal-Amur Mainline modernization


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has officially launched modernization of the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) and the Trans-Siberian Railway, as he had a televised linkup on Tuesday with the officials, business executives and railway workers gathering in the city of Tynda, the Far-Eastern Amur region, in connection with the 40th anniversary since the start of the BAM project.

The president congratulated the railway workers of the BAM on the occasion of the 40th anniversary and inaugurated the ceremony of laying a silver rail joint — section of the rails symbolizing the launch of construction of a new railway line.

The project envisages a higher throughput capacity of the Baikal-Amur Mainline from current 16 to 32 railway vehicles daily by 2017.

The growing transit potential would give an impetus to development of new raw materials, shoring up the economy of the Far East, Putin said, adding that Russia should preserve its status as “a major transport power, working with which is easy, comfortable and advantageous for partners”.

“The BAM has not only been a colossal construction but also a challenge for the country,” he said. “It had both military strategic and national economic significance.”

BAM is one of the longest railway lines in the world.

Together with the world-famous Trans-Siberian Railroad, it ensures transport access to the Pacific.

The idea of building this railroad emerged at the end of the 19th century, but its practical implementation started during the Soviet era, at the end of the 1930s, when separate sections of the new line were built.

Full-scale construction works began in 1974, with thousands of young college graduates and workers from all over the USSR coming to different places along the route of the future line.

Ten years after the start of construction, BAM became an integrated railway line, but its construction continued.

Its length from Taishet in the Irkutsk region to Sovietskaya Gavan, a port city on the Sea of Japan, reaches 4,300 km.

It stretches across vast swathes of permafrost, down to 300m deep in some places, and the zones where seismic activity can be as high as 9.0 points on the Richter scale.

BAM crosses eleven full-flowing rivers and seven mountain ranges, and the total length of its tunnels exceeds 30 km.

A year ago, President Putin issued an instruction to the cabinet to draft a model plan for further steps towards modernization of the BAM and Transsib.

The modernization project will require 562 billion rubles (around $ 16.3 billion) through 2018.

Almost $4.5 billion have been allocated from the National Wealth Fund.

Jailed Ukrainian Filmmaker’s Lawyers Say Russia Breached Human Rights Convention

1:56 PM PST 07/08/2014 by Nick Holdsworth

Oleg Sentsov’s attorneys wrote a letter to the European Court of Human Rights claiming their client was poorly treated by security personnel and denied access to lawyers after his arrest on terrorism charges.

KARLOVY VARY — Lawyers acting for Oleg Sentsov, the jailed Ukrainian filmmaker, say Russia breached the European Convention on Human Rights, of which it is a member, by arresting Sentsov on terrorism charges.

In a letter to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, Yonko Grozev writes that his client’s arrest in Crimea and rendition to Moscow by Russian security agents breaches a number of key articles in the convention.

Sentsov was “ill-treated by security personnel for three hours, in an effort to make him confess to the charges against him,” following his arrest May 10 in Simferopol on terrorism charges, the letter states.

He was denied access to lawyers after his arrest in Crimea. And since his rendition to Russia, where he is being held in pre-trial detention at Moscow’s Lefortovo jail, his legal team has been threatened with criminal prosecution if they reveal any details of proceedings against their client and been denied access to prosecution documents relating to Sentsov’s arrest and detention.

The letter is the first move in a process to lodge a formal complaint about Sentsov’s arrest and transfer to Moscow.

The document states that Sentsov’s lawyers “will argue that he was arrested in complete disregard of the applicable extradition procedures, which resulted in an unlawful deprivation of liberty in violation of [key articles] of the Convention.”

The letter was sent Monday, the same day a Moscow court denied Sentsov bail. The court dismissed requests that house arrest could be substituted for bail, instead ordering that the filmmaker be held in prison until his trail, set to begin October 11.

In a statement to the court, Sentsov denied he had ever been a member of Right Sector — a Ukrainian national group Russia says is behind violent attacks in Urkaine — or any other extremist group.

He denied plotting to destroy wartime monuments in Crimea, adding that he took the accusation as a “personal insult.”

Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, Ukrainian citizens were automatically deemed by Moscow to have become Russian unless they left the region.

Sentsov challenged that, telling the judge that he was a Ukrainian citizen and not a “slave” that could be transferred from one landowner to another and adding that he wished to return to his own country.

Warner Bros. Taps Russia’s Fyodor Bondarchuk to Direct ‘Odysseus’

Victor Boyko/Getty Images
Fyodor Bondarchuk, (left) director of “Stalingrad”, on set in a production still.

The filmmaker’s WWII epic “Stalingrad” grossed $66 million last year, the strongest performance ever by a Russian film.

MOSCOW — Fyodor Bondarchuk,  director of Russia’s highest grossing movie ever, Stalingrad, has been tapped to shoot his first Hollywood movie.

Bondarchuk has been hired by Warner Bros. to direct Odysseus, an epic adventure based on Homer’s poem of the return of a Greek king after the Trojan war.

PHOTOS Hollywood’s 100 Favorite Films

The movie, scripted by Jeremy Doner, is being producer by Gianni Nunnari (who produced Zack Snyder‘s 2006 epic of the battle of Thermopylae, 300) and Moscow-based producers Paul Heth and Michael Schlicht.

Bondarchuk’s all-action visual effects-rich 3D take on the WWII clash between Hitler’s forces and the Red Army, grossed more than $66 million on a budget of $30 million. The film’s success in the Chinese market, where it took $11 million is believed to be among the reasons Warner Bros. was keen on the director.

PHOTOS 19 Sequels That Outgrossed the Original Movies

Bondarchuk is the first Russian director to cross over to Hollywood since Timur Bekmanbetov was hired in 2008 by Universal to direct Wanted, starring Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy.

Bondarchuk confirmed Wednesday to The Hollywood Reporter that he had been hired but declined to offer more details on location, cast or production schedule.

– See more at:

Oscar Winner Nikita Mikhalkov Appeals to Free Ukrainian Filmmaker Held by Russians on Terrorist Charges

8:23 AM PST 06/30/2014 by Nick Holdsworth
Kristina Nikishina/Epsilon/Getty Images
Nikita Mikhalkov

The director’s comments at the closing of the Moscow Film Festival raise hopes for Oleg Sentsov’s release.

Mikhalkov used the closing ceremony of the 36th Moscow International Film Festival on Saturday as his opportunity to support calls for Oleg Sentsov to be freed.

PHOTOS 35 of 2014’s Most Anticipated Movies

Speaking to an invited audience at Moscow’s Pushkin Film Theater, Mikhalkov said he supports an appeal for Sentsov’s release made earlier in the evening by Sergey Trymbach, the head of the Ukrainian filmmakers union.

“I hope that Trymbach [has been] heard, and I hope that I am also heard,” he said at an event that was being televised live across Russia. “I join [Trymbach] and ask for [the] release [of] Oleg Sentsov.”

Mikhalkov, who is a noted supporter of President Vladimir Putin and has voiced his support for the Kremlin’s policies over Ukraine, added: “I express my solidarity with Ukrainian cultural workers; we are not politicians, we are artists, we must be independent of politicians.”

PHOTOS Hollywood’s Most Fascinating Legal Sagas, From Casey Kasem to Michael Jackson

Sentsov, an single father of two, was arrested early May at home in Simferopol, Crimea, by agents of Russian’s Federal Security Service, a successor body to the Soviet-era KGB, and later flown to Moscow’s Lefortovo jail.

Earlier this month, he was charged with plotting with others to blow up power lines, railway bridges, the offices of Russian political parties, a statute of Lenin and a wartime “eternal flame” monument.

FSB authorities say they found explosives, ammunition and “nationalist paraphernalia” in his home and that of three others arrested at the time. Security agents later said co-conspirators had admitted that they and Sentsov were members of Ukrainian far-right organisation Right Sector and had confessed to planning terrorist acts.

PHOTOS 25 of the Most Anticipated Foreign Films of 2014

Friends and colleagues of Sentsov, whose second film Gaamer has received financial backing from German public film funds, say the charges are preposterous. The director was opposed to Russian annexation of Crimea and supported the winter protests against the government of former PresidentViktor Yanukovich, but they say he is no terrorist.

His arrest has alarmed members of the European filmmaking community, with directors includingAgnieszka Holland, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and Pedro Almodovar appealing to Putin for his release.

Sentsov’s Moscow-based sister Natasha, who has been visiting him in prison and liaising with his lawyers, said Mikhalkov’s comments represent “significant progress” in the campaign to secure his freedom.

“When [Russian film director AlexanderSokhurov spoke at out for his freedom earlier this month at [national film festival] Kinotavr, that did not go out on live television,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “Mikhalkov’s remarks were broadcast across Russia and this from a man who has never on the side of the opposition. It represents great progress.”

British journalist: Russia’s aggressive face is just a front

Nick making a point during his 'public conversation' at the European Humanities University in Vilnius, April 2014.

Nick making a point during his ‘public conversation’ at the European Humanities University in Vilnius, April 2014.

April 2014, Vilnius

I gave a talk to the European Humanities Universities as tensions between Russia and the West were peaking shortly after the Kremlin’s seizure of Crimea…

Here is the top line from the EHU site:

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin is using judo tactics to throw political opponents off balance, says British journalist Nick Holdsworth. According to Holdsworth, who spoke at an EHU Public Conversation “The Beautiful and the Damned—Life in Eastern Europe in Transition,” to gain more from relations with Russia, the West needs to “loosen up” and try to see things through Russian eyes.

According to Holdsworth, Putin adopts a “judo philosophy” in politics—he plans a few moves ahead and keeps his opponents off balance—and thus far, Europe and the US seem to have failed to predict Russia’s next moves…

You can read more here:


Breakfast TV, Bishkek Style

There’s something poetic about getting up for a 7 a.m breakfast tv appearance to talk about movies when you’ve just arrived in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan and your body clock tells you that this is a deeply weird thing to be doing… particularly when you’ve blithely promised to do the whole thing live and in Russian…. but that’s what I did this morning (or evening, depending on where you happen to be in the world.)

Since NTS Bishkek’s UtroLive! went out… um, live…. I didn’t immediately have a link to my erudite comments about Kyrgzystan’s first ever historical epic film, Kurmanjan Datkabut from what the movie’s producer Farkhad Bekmambetov tells me, who watched my 15 minutes of fame, I made sense, which is a relief.

I do have a photo, courtesy of the Facebook site of the charming morning show presenter Nuraika (Nuraiyim Ryskulova) who had the presence of mind to ask as studio technician to snap a pic of us on the sofa when a music clip rolled at the end of our interview.

(and now: STOP PRESS, a link to the footage of..15 minutes of fame, Bishkek style….


Britain’s secessionist debate: King James speaks

Straying a little outside my usual Eastern approaches, but thinking of the recent ‘referendum’ in Crimea, this story from today’s Telegraph casts an intriguing historic light on the current debate over Scottish independence, due to go to a vote (north of the border) in September….