Ninety percent of the Taisoigan military training ground in Atyrau region will be withdrawn from Russian lease and returned to Kazakhstan, according to a March 3 report on Astana TV.
Kazakh Senator Sarsenbai Yensegenov, who has worked on this issue since 2011, stated that the land coordinates have already been identified and an intergovernmental agreement will soon be signed.
“In early February, the [Kazakh] President granted powers to the Ministry of Defence to sign an intergovernmental agreement. Now this project is being developed. The agreement will be submitted to Parliament and will enter into force after its ratification. As I was told by the Ministry of Defence, the document will be signed in late March,” said Yensegenov.
Several farms and more than a hundred houses are located in the Taisoigan training grounds, which has more than 1,000 residents. Due to the fact that the land is leased, people experience serious difficulties with documentation related to the use of individual plots and pastures. Farmers cannot receive loans or lease agricultural equipment.
Another important factor in the land use resolution is the possibility of large deposits of oil located in the territory. Three fields producing 496,000 tonnes of oil per year have already been developed close to the training ground. Kondybai and Uaz deposits were discovered a few years ago in Taisoigan, but starting their development is not possible due to the jurisdiction. Overall, 25 known geological structures are located in the Taisoigan block.
The Taisoigan training ground is situated approximately 250 kilometres from Atyrau and 60 kilometres from Miyaly, the district centre. Since 1952, Strategic Rocket Forces and Soviet Air Forces stationed in the territory have conducted nuclear tests. According to official data, 24 underground nuclear explosions at a depth of 500 metres were tested in the period from 1966-1977.
Since 2000, the training ground has not witnessed a single test whatsoever. There has been no evaluation, however, of the harmful effects of the significant amount of nuclear waste on the environment and population. According to information from the Russian Ministry of Defence, the military training ground, known as the 929th State Flight Test Centre, is used as a safe zone to test aircraft for their manoeuvrability and forced landing in emergency situations. The rent received by Kazakhstan is $4 million per year.
In a separate interview that Yensegenov gave to Radio Azattyq, the senator stated, “Russia is showing understanding on this issue. Not to say that they do not want to part with the land. I cannot say this about all polygons, but it should be noted that the polygons in the Atyrau region that were actively used during the Soviet era are now virtually free.”