Mayor of Semey, city near former nuclear test site in Kazakhstan, confirms role as regional “leader city” for Mayors for Peace

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

Aibek Karimov, the mayor of Semey (formerly, Semipalatink), a city located in the area where the former Soviet Union repeatedly conducted nuclear tests, met with Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui at Hiroshima City Hall on March 28. Mr. Karimov confirmed that Semey will serve as one of the new regional “leader cities” for Mayors for Peace, for which Mr. Matsui serves as president, starting in April of 2015. Mr. Karimov pledged his support for promoting the campaign for nuclear abolition pursued by Mayors for Peace, both at home and abroad.

Semey is located near the former Soviet Union’s largest nuclear test site, where nuclear tests were carried out more than 450 times over a span of 40 years, starting in 1949. Last October, the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, which serves as the secretariat of Mayors for Peace, asked Semey to become a “leader city” and help spearhead the organizations’s efforts in the region.

During his visit with the Hiroshima mayor, Mr. Karimov indicated that Semey will accept the request. “Through our own experience, we fully recognize the horror of nuclear weapons,” he said. “As a regional leader city, we will do what we can so that everyone on earth recognizes this, too.” Mr. Karimov also asked Mr. Matsui to attend a ceremony scheduled for August 29 in Semey to commemorate the closure of the nuclear test site. Mr. Matsui expressed his appreciation to Mr. Karimov for accepting the role of leader city and said that he will consider attending the event.

Akylbek Kamaldinov, the ambassador of Kazakhstan to Japan, accompanied Mr. Karimov. Mr. Kamaldinov said he would like to open an honorary consulate general in Hiroshima as a center for promoting cultural and economic exchange. He said that he is seeking supporters, and working out the details.

(Originally published on March 29, 2014)