Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has fired the mayor of Tashkent, protesting at his “empty words” amid power and gas outages afflicting the capital during severe cold weather.
The dismissal of Jahangir Artykhodjayev was announced during the early morning of January 16. "Yesterday at headquarters I removed him from his post. For empty words, a false report, for not going down to the people, for the fact that this unscrupulous man's feet left the ground, I fired him," Mirziyoyev said.
The Uzbek leader, at a meeting called to address the country’s energy shortage crisis was angry at the lack of energy preparations officials including Artykhodjayev had made for the winter cold. He added: "Our population expresses serious objections as regards the provision of natural gas and electricity, and the quality of public services. We all see it. I myself see the unpreparedness of [municipal leaders] for the current situation, especially the leaders at all levels of the city of Tashkent. Our people also see this."
The now ex-mayor, along with his family, were reportedly registered to travel on Uzbekistan Airways flight HY 271, which flew to Istanbul, Turkey, after a delay. The flight was scheduled for January 16 at 07:40.
The head of a heating plant, a deputy energy minister as well as several regional governors, have also been removed from their posts by the president amid the deep freeze.
Miriziyoyev stated that a daily electricity limit of 3mn kWh has been established in Tashkent, while around 6,000 wholesale gas consumers have been disconnected from the gas grid and 120 of 584 mahallas [neighbourhoods] were experiencing electricity and gas outages.
On January 15 in Tashkent alone, seven high and 524 low voltage transformers failed, unable to cope with the increased load of high energy demand amid the freezing weather.
"Why is this happening in the capital? Why didn't we prepare in advance? I am tormented by the question of where the responsible [leaders] of the Cabinet of Ministers looked [in preparation], despite the fact that we talked about it so much. In this regard, due to the lack of preparation for the winter season, without a preliminary assessment, I dismissed the mayor of Tashkent, Jahongir Artykhodjayev," the president said.
Mirziyoyev also criticised the continued absence of a general development plan for the capital, with the number of illegally constructed facilities now exceeding 250. “When allowing construction, there is no accurate calculation of the load on the existing infrastructure,” he said.
Mirziyoyev has also instructed the State Security Service and the Prosecutor General's Office of Uzbekistan to investigate the activities of the fired officials. If violations of the law are ascertained, there could be prosecutions.
Artykkhodjayev has faced during his time as mayor constant criticism from journalists who say he took an intimidating approach to them. He has also been under fire for allegedly using his office to provide advantages to enterprises under his control.
Under Artykkhodjayev, Tashkent saw a construction boom that is now blamed for neverending power outages, gas shortages and an often angry population.