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Thursday, March 2, 2017

[ETG spinning off US projects; Gobi Coal eyes IPO; MNT gains for 6 days; Russia extends $1.7B loan; and Happy Year of the Fire Rooster!]

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- HAPPY YEAR OF THE FIRE ROOSTER -

Thursday, March 2, 2017

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Jump to: Int'l Market - Local Market - Economy - Politics & Legal - Business - Ulaanbaatar - Diplomacy - Health & Education - Culture & Society - Nature & Environment - Sports - Art & Entertainment - Travel

Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original

 

HEADLINES

Int'l Market

·         Turquoise Hill announces retirement of CFO

·         Entree Gold Announces Spin-Out of US Projects

·         Mongolia Growth Group Announces Renewal of Normal Course Issuer Bid

·         Prophecy to Greet Investors at 2017 PDAC Bolivian and Mongolian Forums in Toronto March 5 to 8

·         Oriental Non-Ferrous Resources Development sees Mongolia as cornerstone of Asian mining strategy

·         Gobi Coal & Energy Acquires Advanced Uranium Project in Mongolia and Plans Public Listing

Local Market

·         MSE Weekly Report: Top 20 +7.34%, ALL +3.94%, Turnover ₮463.5M Shares, ₮7.9B T-Bill Primary, ₮1.7B Secondary

·         Gan Khiits JSC announces ₮24.2 million dividend, ₮100 per share

·         FRC halts Atar Urguu JSC share trading under auditor's recommendation

·         ETC SME Local Currency Programme Technical Cooperation Framework: Capital Market Development Strategy for Mongolia

Economy

·         MNT loses 22.8% in Year of the Fire Monkey

·         BoM issues ₮609.55 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding -8.1% to ₮609.55 billion

·         Mongolia and China agreed to extend bilateral currency swap arrangement

·         Russia extends Mongolia a 100 billion ruble loan

·         Mongolia Economic Forum 2017, March 30-31

·         NRGI: Mongolia Macro-Fiscal Model

·         China's coal imports from North Korea ease after sanctions

·         China's coal consumption falls for 3rd year in a row

Politics & Legal

·         Parliament expected to convene next week

·         Investment environment of Mongolia discussed at MFA

·         Central bank and police cooperate against illegal transactions

·         President extends Lunar New Year greeting

·         Prime Minister wishes prosperous Year of Rooster

·         State greetings on Lunar New Year

·         Julian Dierkes: Benchmarking Corruption

·         Opinion: Working with Mongolia local government to prevent corruption

·         EU-CSO Programme: Enhancing CSOs' Contribution to Governance and Development Processes in Mongolia

·         Mongolia joins Global Consensus on Sustainable Livestock

·         AmCham Daily Newswire for February 24, 2017

Business

·         BCM Trade & Logistics Working Group Needs Assessment Survey 2017

·         Development Bank of Mongolia to participate in 'One Belt One Road'

·         Green Public-Private Partnerships for Public Infrastructure in Mongolia

·         AmCham March Monthly Meeting, March 7

·         KT&G enjoys sales boom in Mongolia with tailored strategies

Ulaanbaatar

·         10 clinics to be built in UB with Turkish aid

·         UB Mayor receives Istanbul delegates

Diplomacy

·         A Conversation With Mongolia's Foreign Minister Tsend Munkh-Orgil

·         Foreign Minister addresses UN Human Rights Council session

·         Malaysia detains three vessels, two from Mongolia

·         UAE Ambassador meets with Mongolia's President in Ulaanbaatar

·         Justice Minister receives Ambassador of Italy

·         State officials welcome foreign diplomatic representatives for Tsagaan Sar

·         MFA state secretary discusses ties with US ambassador

·         State Dept: Mongolian Lunar New Year (Tsagaan Sar)

·         Mongolia and Japan celebrating 45th anniversary of diplomatic ties

Health & Education

·         Taiwan donates braille embosser to Mongolian national blind federation

·         Students can apply for military course until March 10

Culture & Society

·         Mongolia Severe Winter: Humanitarian Report (as of 15 Feb 2017)

·         Teenage Girls Run Households During Mongolia's Winter Crisis

·         Severe winter killing off livestock in Mongolia

·         GoPro: Eagle Hunters in a New World

·         Tsagaan Sar - Lunar New Year celebration begins in Mongolia

·         Bituun (Tsagaan Sar Eve)

·         Year of the Red Fire Rooster welcomed

·         First day of Tsagaan Sar

·         Gandantegchenling Monastery to perform chants for 15 days

·         Mongolia: A Changing Landscape

·         East Meets West: Medieval European Travellers and the Great Khans of Mongolia

·         Historical records of Genghis Khan's empire translated into Mongolian

Nature & Environment

·         Endangered antelope in Mongolia faces extinction

·         Saiga Conservation: A short overview of the situation in Mongolia

·         Four baby snow leopards in Mongolia

·         Late Paleozoic low-angle southward-dipping thrust in the Züünharaa area, Mongolia

Sports

·         Mongolian judokas triumph at Dusseldorf Grand Prix

·         Ch.Sanjaadamba wins Lunar New Year wrestling tournament

·         Swimmer Sh.Davaadorj preps for 2022 Winter Olympics

·         Tough men from the steppe

·         Speaker M.Enkhbold welcomes distinguished horse trainers

·         President awards state titles to horse trainers

·         Child jockeys shouldn't race in winter horse races

·         School Rules for Mongolia's Ambitious YOG Star

Art & Entertainment

·         Morin Khuur-2016 festival winners announced

·         Albacete International Circus Festival prizes go to a Mongolian circus troupe

·         Mongolian artists to take part in Oxford International Art Fair

·         'The Eagle Huntress' soars with possibility

·         The Eagle Huntress: The true story behind a fairytale

Travel

·         Events to be held during Tsagaan Sar 2017

·         Ice and Snow Festival 2017, Khuvsgul Lake, March 3-4

·         Travel Buddies: Mongolia Nomads Winter Festival Tour – 2017

·         A photographer's epic road trip from Scotland to Mongolia: Boys, bikes and bucket hats

·         A traveller's top 10 cities to visit: #6 Ulaanbaatar

·         Why You Should Travel to Mongolia (or, Why My Solo Trip to Mongolia Was Everything)

·         Silk Road Treasure Tours: Hidden Treasures of Nomadic Mongolia

·         Shuren Travel: Fishing in Mongolia Travel Programs

 

 

ARTICLES

Int'l Market

TRQ closed +5.68% Wednesday to US$3.35, -3.46% from last week

Turquoise Hill announces retirement of CFO

VANCOUVER, BC--(Marketwired - February 27, 2017) - Turquoise Hill Resources today announced the retirement of the Company's Chief Financial Officer Steeve Thibeault effective May 23, 2017. Turquoise Hill is in the process of initiating a search for Mr. Thibeault's successor. An announcement will be made in due course.

Jeff Tygesen, Turquoise Hill Chief Executive Officer, said, "I want to thank Steeve for his contributions to Turquoise Hill, particularly his financial and tax leadership. We wish him all the best in the future."

Mr. Thibeault was appointed Chief Financial Officer in June 2014 and also serves as a director of Oyu Tolgoi LLC.

Link to release

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EGI closed +9.89% Wednesday to US$0.61, -3.85% from last week

Entree Gold Announces Spin-Out of US Projects

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Feb. 28, 2017) - Entrée Gold Inc. ("Entrée or the "Company") (TSX:ETG)(NYSE MKT:EGI)(FRANKFURT:EKA) is pleased to announce that its Board of Directors (the "Board") has unanimously approved a strategic reorganization of its business (the "Arrangement"). Pursuant to the Arrangement, Entrée's Ann Mason and Lordsburg projects (the "US Projects") will be transferred to a newly incorporated company, Mason Resources Corp. ("Mason"). Shareholders of Entrée ("Shareholders") will receive common shares in Mason ("Mason Common Shares") in proportion to their shareholdings in Entrée. There will be no change to Shareholders' existing interests in Entrée.

It is intended that, as part of the Arrangement, the Shareholders will receive Mason Common Shares by way of a share exchange, pursuant to which each existing share of Entrée (an "Entrée Common Share") is exchanged for one "new" share of Entrée and 0.45 of a Mason Common Share. Optionholders ("Optionholders") and warrantholders ("Warrantholders") of Entrée will receive replacement options and warrants of Entrée and options and warrants of Mason which are proportionate to, and reflective of the terms of, their existing options and warrants of Entrée. The reorganization will be effected by way of a plan of arrangement under the Business Corporations Act (British Columbia) (the "Plan of Arrangement") and must be approved by the Supreme Court of British Columbia (the "Court") and by the affirmative vote of 66 2/3% of the Shareholders, as well as the Shareholders, Optionholders and Warrantholders (collectively, the "Securityholders") voting together as a single class. A meeting of Securityholders to approve, among other things, the Arrangement, will be held on May 1, 2017 (the "Meeting").

Once the Arrangement becomes effective, the result will be two separate and focused, well-capitalized entities, each with a high quality advanced project providing new and existing shareholders with optionality as to investment strategy and risk profile.

Entrée currently has a treasury of approximately US$18.5 million, of which US$8.75 million will be transferred to Mason as part of the Arrangement. In the event that all outstanding warrants are exercised following the Arrangement, the two companies would receive up to an additional approximately C$6 million in the aggregate.

Entrée is undertaking the Arrangement in order to focus on its carried 20% joint venture interest in two of the Oyu Tolgoi deposits in Mongolia and potentially acquiring other value accreting and synergistic assets. The Arrangement is also intended to maximize Shareholder value by allowing the market to value Entrée's assets independently of the US Projects. It is expected that transferring the US Projects from Entrée to Mason will help accelerate development of the Ann Mason project and give scope to new acquisitions.

Mason will initially be managed by Entrée's current team of officers. Its board will consist of four directors who also currently sit on the Entrée Board, as well as at least one other new director who is independent of Entrée.

Additional details of the spin-out transaction will be included in an information circular to be mailed to Securityholders on or about March 24, 2017 in connection with the Meeting. Subject to receipt of all required Securityholder, Court and regulatory approvals, the Arrangement is expected to close by May 30, 2017.

Entrée will be attending PDAC in Toronto between March 5 and 9, 2017 and will give a presentation at the conference on Monday, March 6 at 2:20 p.m.

Link to release

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MNGGF closed -1.67% Wednesday to US$0.295, +40.48% in last 3 months

Mongolia Growth Group Announces Renewal of Normal Course Issuer Bid

Calgary, Alberta, February 28 (FSCwire) - Mongolia Growth Group Ltd. (the "Company") (TSX V: MGG), announced today that TSX Venture Exchange (the "Exchange") has accepted a Notice of Intention to renew its normal course issuer bid to purchase outstanding common shares of the Company on the open market in accordance with the policies of the TSXV.

Pursuant to the NCIB, (the "Bid") the Company may acquire up to 2,850,000 common shares (representing up to approximately 8.3 % of the 34,524,099 common shares of the Company currently issued and outstanding, or approximately 9.9% of the 28,592,349 common shares constituting the Company's current Public Float (as that term is defined in the policies of the Exchange)) from time to time during the next 12 months. In accordance with the Policies of the Exchange, the maximum number of common shares that may be purchased under the Bid in any 30-day period may not exceed 2% of the issued and outstanding common shares of the Company when aggregated with all other common shares purchased under the Bid in the preceding 30 days.

The Company is undertaking the Bid because, in the opinion of its board of directors, the market price of its common shares, from time to time, may not fully reflect the underlying value of its operations and future growth prospects. The Company believes that in such circumstances, the purchase of the common shares of the Company may represent an appropriate and desirable use of the Company's funds and further enhance market stability.

The Company may, subject to market conditions, sell one or more of its investment properties to finance purchases under the Bid from time to time.

From February 23, 2016 to February 22, 2017, the Company purchased 1,008,500 of its shares at an average price of $0.35 under its most recently expired NCIB.

The Company has retained M Partners Inc. of Toronto, Ontario as its broker Member for the purposes of conducting the bid. The Bid will commence on or about March 1, 2017 and the Bid will end no later than March 1, 2018. The common shares will be purchased for cancellation on the open market through the facilities of the Exchange, at market price.

Link to release

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PCY closed -2% Wednesday to C$4.40, -15.38% in last 1 month

Prophecy to Greet Investors at 2017 PDAC Bolivian and Mongolian Forums in Toronto March 5 to 8

Vancouver, British Columbia (FSCwire) - Prophecy Development Corp. ("Prophecy" or the "Company") (TSX:PCY, OTCPK:PRPCF, Frankfurt:1P2N) is pleased to invite shareholders and investors to the following presentations and receptions to be held at the Metro Toronto Convention Center:

Sunday, March 5, 2017 2:00pm to 7:30pm 

Mongolia: For stability, unlocking the potential

Location: Room 206D

http://www.pdac.ca/convention/programming/presentation-reception-rooms/sessions/presentation-reception-rooms/mongolia-for-stability-unlocking-the-potential

"Organized by Mongolia's Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry, in partnership with Mongolian and foreign invested exploration and mining companies, the event will focus on: Mongolia's investment climate and specific actions to strengthen it; Mongolia's untapped exploration potential; and exciting Mongolian discoveries, projects and investment opportunities."

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URG last traded C$0.90 on Jan 24

Oriental Non-Ferrous Resources Development sees Mongolia as cornerstone of Asian mining strategy

Resources are important for Mongolia, accounting for a majority of the country's exports

February 28 (Proactive Investors) Covering an area larger than Peru yet with a population of just 3 million people, Mongolia is the most sparsely populated country on earth.  It is also a beautiful and fascinating nation, with traditions established before Genghis Khan founded the Mongol Empire in 1206 influencing lifestyles to this day.

While mindful of its rich culture, Mongolia is easing into the modern economy with commercial-scale mining leading the way.  How could it not when minerals comprise some 80% of the country's exports?

Mongolia's most famous mine is undeniably Oyu Tolgoi, the copper-gold behemoth operated jointly with the Mongolian government by Rio Tinto (LON:RIO) subsidiary Turquoise Hill Mining (TSX:TRQ) since 2013.

But the country is home to other mines as well, such as Centerra Gold (TSX:CG)'s Boroo mine, a historic gold mine whose modern-day output began in March 2004 and continued until September 2012, though with a stoppage of just over a year beginning in November 2010.

Oriental Non-Ferrous Resources Development (CSE:URG) and its leadership team were attracted to the country for the same reasons as other companies – high-quality projects, proximity to Asia and a favourable permitting environment, to name a few.

The driving force behind the company's strategy and operations, founder and director Youliang Wang, explains that the concept for Oriental Non-Ferrous Resources Development dates back some 20 years to when he was a banker at China Construction Bank, where his responsibilities included overseeing loans to Chinese mining companies.

Attracted by the scale and variety of opportunity in Mongolia, Wang first invested in a dairy business, eventually broadening into other agricultural businesses as complements.

Given his background in mining finance, though, it was only a matter of time until he created a plan to move into this sector.  In 2013, Wang and his team immersed themselves in the Mongolian mining community, working with consultants and local exploration teams to examine various properties.  The result was the company's current land package, prospective for both industrial and precious metals.

Oriental Non-Ferrous Resources Development's properties are located in the Bornuur district in the Tӧv Aimag, or Central Province, of Northern Mongolia.  Its package spans roughly 1,050 hectares, comprised mostly of the Kharganii am-1 Molybdenum Property.

"Our licensed area is situated in the North Khentii tectonic belt and we have encountered gold, copper, molybdenum, tungsten and silver on its grounds," says Wang.  "The projects are located 24km northwest of Centerra Gold's Boroo deposit and 15km east of their Gatsuurt gold deposit."

Since acquiring the Mongolian projects, the company has completed extensive trenching and geophysical work, geological mapping, ground magnetic surveys and polarization gradient surveys.

"Our initial phase of exploration drill work has contributed to a database that contains approximately 3,501 drill core samples and 29 trench samples that were assayed for molybdenum," says Wang. "This includes a current program which encompasses 29 holes for a total of over 11,630m."

Wang explains that many of the holes have multiple intersections of molybdenum mineralization above 0.05%, with several intervals of between 1m and 2m exceeding 0.5% Mo. The best hole yielded a 3m length averaging 2.413% Mo.

Wang notes that the Mongolian permitting environment is very reasonable, with the various licenses Oriental Non-Ferrous Resources Development holds typically being extendable for up to 30 years.

P&E Mining Consultants of Toronto was recently chosen to complete a NI 43-101 report for the company's Kharganii am-1 Project, which will reflect results from the current drill program and associated metallurgical test work.  A concurrent evaluation of the preliminary economics of the molybdenum deposit is also planned.

The properties being situated within a recognized gold belt, Oriental Non-Ferrous Resources Development is also gearing up to initiate a property-wide evaluation of potential gold targets.  The work will include mapping, prospecting and IP geophysics. Expansion of the property is also under consideration.

"The North Khentii gold belt has an extensive history of mining both alluvial placer and bedrock gold deposits," says Wang.  "After discussions with geologists from P&E, we are looking to evaluate high-potential targets within the property for gold mineralization."

Wang says Oriental Non-Ferrous Resources Development is also evaluating both merger and acquisition opportunities and possible project procurements, the longer-term objective being to develop a portfolio of Asia-based projects diversified across various mineral types and regions.

Time will tell where these expansion efforts lead, but for the time being there is plenty to be excited about in Mongolia.  The country has only been an internationally accessible mining jurisdiction since the mid-1990s, and if one considers what the industry has been able to accomplish in the last decade between new discoveries and active operators, Mongolia holds its own vis-à-vis many more mature mining jurisdictions in other parts of the world.

"We have long believed in the viability of mining projects in Mongolia, and when the projects in our current portfolio came to our attention, we thought what better way to get involved in the space than to make investments in some of these great projects, and then look to take them public," Wang concludes.  "Mongolia has a rich mining tradition, and we hope Oriental Non-Ferrous Resources Development will in time be able to play a lasting role."

Link to article

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Gobi Coal & Energy Acquires Advanced Uranium Project in Mongolia and Plans Public Listing

Diversified Energy Resources Company Focused on High Value Projects  

SINGAPORE, February 28, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Gobi Coal & Energy ("Gobi Coal") is pleased to announce its 100% stock acquisition of Zaraiya Holdings Ltd ("Zaraiya"), which wholly owns an advanced in-situ leach uranium project in Mongolia, adjacent to AREVA. The acquisition is expected to complete in March and demonstrates Gobi Coal's progress towards becoming a diversified multi-national energy resources company focused on high value projects. As part of this strategy, Gobi Coal plans to rename itself Zaraiya Energy Resources Limited and is moving forward with a public listing along with an associated capital raise of up to US $10 million.

The combined company benefits from nearly US $200 million of investment in three high-grade metallurgical coal mines in Mongolia containing 318 million tons of JORC resources and the advanced in-situ leach uranium project having at least 20 million pounds of existing resource potential and up to 50 million pounds of resource potential following planned land acquisitions currently under discussion. The primary metallurgical coal mine in southwest Mongolia is pre-stripped and production ready with peak production potential of 6+ million tons per annum of semi-soft and hard coking coal and coal seams as wide as 44 meters.

During the last several years, Gobi Coal successfully preserved its metallurgical coal mines through the recent sharp recovery in metallurgical coal prices during 2016. With market prices for Shandong semi-soft and Liulin hard coking coal finishing the 2016 year at RMB 1,000 (US $145) and RMB 1,600 (US$ 232), respectively, the economic value of the Gobi Coal mines has returned to near peak levels. This has allowed Gobi Coal to progress plans for the development of a railway from Shinejinst to the China border with a view to reaching full metallurgical coal production as soon as 2019.

At the same time, the long-term potential for uranium has strengthened significantly. China has a reported 30 reactors in operation, 24 new reactors under construction, 40 reactors planned, and 136 reactors proposed, together which will result in a three-fold increase in its nuclear capacity by 2020-21. The UAE through the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation is leading one of the most advanced nuclear energy construction programs worldwide that reached 76% overall construction completion at the end of 2016. Reactors in operation worldwide today are already consuming in excess of 10,000 tons of uranium per year more than current global mine production capacity. This supply-demand imbalance is expected to grow sharply as numerous new reactors enter operation.

According to Gobi Coal Chairman, Mr. Mo Munshi, "The combination of our developed high grade coking coal mines and the in-situ leach uranium deposits next to AREVA in Mongolia positions our company to be a newly diversified energy resources company. Going forward, we are aiming to consolidate and develop high grade coking coal mines along our railway corridor in Mongolia as well as expand our uranium portfolio both inside and outside of Mongolia."

As of the end of 2016, Gobi Coal had cash receivables of US $18 million and no debt.

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Local Market

MSE Weekly Report: Top 20 +7.34%, ALL +3.94%, Turnover 463.5M Shares, 7.9B T-Bill Primary, 1.7B Secondary

February 24 (MSE) --

Link to report

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Gan Khiits JSC announces 24.2 million dividend, 100 per share

February 24 (MSE) Board of Directors meeting of "Gan Khiits" JSC were held on 17 February 2017 and made a decision to distribute dividends to its shareholders with MNT100.00 per share which is total of MNT24.2 million.

The ex-dividend day is 4 March 2017, and dividends will be paid in cash to shareholders accounts at Mongolian Central Securities Depository.

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FRC halts Atar Urguu JSC share trading under auditor's recommendation

February 24 (MSE) The securities of "Atar Urguu" JSC, will be placed in "Trading Halt" state accordance with the official enforcement letter of FRC's state inspector, dated 24 February 2017 and the recommendation of "Fiscal Audit" LLC that audited "Atar Urguu" JSC.  

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ETC SME Local Currency Programme Technical Cooperation Framework: Capital Market Development Strategy for Mongolia

Country: Mongolia

Business sector: Financial institutions

Project number: 68284

Funding source: JPNF00 - Japan-EBRD Coop

Contract type: Consultancy Services

Notice type: Invitation for expressions of interest (CSU)

Issue date: 01 Mar 2017

Closing date: 22 Mar 2017   at  23:59   London

Access eSelection

Project Description: The Early Transition Countries (ETCs) SME Local Currency Programme Technical Cooperation (TC) Framework (the Framework) is being implemented by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD or the Bank) within its key Local Currency and Capital Markets Development (LC2) Initiative and funded by the Japan-EBRD Cooperation Fund. The Framework supports necessary capital market reforms to 1) make ETCs more resilient, 2) develop access to alternative sources in local currency for the domestic market participants, and 3) facilitate local currency funding by the EBRD and others in ETCs under the EBRD's SME Local Currency Programme (LCYP).

The Framework covers 5 areas with TC work:

1)    Reforming the legal and regulatory environment to support modern capital market activities, instruments, and infrastructure.

2)    Providing capacity building programmes for central banks, market participants and regulators.

3)    Developing capital market products by providing a feasibility study, implementation roadmaps, and education on the new or uncommon instruments such as corporate bonds, covered bonds, basic securitizations, repos, basic derivatives (e.g. FX or interest rate swaps), and equity listing support programs for SMEs.

4)    Reforming capital market infrastructure, covering exchange, clearing, settlement, and depository entities, as well as relevant market infrastructure areas of the central bank (e.g. money market systems, government bond trading platforms and registries, and payment and settlement systems).

5)    Developing the local and international institutional investor base including pension funds.

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Economy

Reds are when MNT fell, greens when it rose. Bold reds are rates that set a new historic high at the time.

BoM MNT Rates: Friday, February 24 Close

 

2/24

2/23

2/22

2/21

2/20

2/17

2/16

2/15

2/14

2/13

High

Date

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USD

2,470.83

2,473.63

2,476.02

2,479.84

2,482.29

2,483.11

2,483.39

2,482.58

2,485.38

2,485.16

2,498.75

1/10/2017

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EUR

2,617.84

2,608.32

2,601.68

2,623.05

2,635.45

2,645.75

2,635.37

2,625.20

2,636.99

2,644.96

2,681.43

11/10/2016

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JPY

21.92

21.85

21.83

21.84

21.94

21.89

21.79

21.68

21.89

21.89

23.49

11/9/2016

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GBP

3,100.15

3,086.72

3,091.68

3,082.44

3,085.98

3,100.91

3,100.51

3,092.30

3,112.19

3,109.06

3,183.26

8/13/2014

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RUB

42.67

42.73

42.99

42.85

42.75

43.06

43.35

43.78

43.06

42.82

54.32

6/27/2014

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CNY

359.62

359.70

359.97

360.12

361.01

361.45

361.91

361.47

361.72

361.24

363.02

1/5/2017

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KRW

2.18

2.17

2.17

2.17

2.16

2.16

2.17

2.18

2.18

2.16

2.18

2/6/2017

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SGD

1,758.66

1,750.00

1,744.60

1,745.63

1,751.17

1,752.25

1,749.54

1,746.21

1,751.62

1,748.82

1,758.66

2/24/2017

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CAD

1,888.08

1,881.52

1,883.12

1,886.74

1,896.62

1,899.42

1,902.40

1,899.45

1,904.00

1,899.46

1,908.84

1/18/2017

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AUD

1,906.25

1,902.35

1,905.17

1,900.55

1,907.02

1,911.00

1,913.20

1,904.64

1,907.16

1,906.49

1,913.20

2/16/2017

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HKD

318.40

318.78

319.03

319.52

319.84

319.94

319.99

319.89

320.31

320.31

322.21

1/10/2017

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CHF

2,456.83

2,447.81

2,446.66

2,464.93

2,475.24

2,486.34

2,473.00

2,464.96

2,471.79

2,478.22

2,497.77

11/09/2016

Bank USD rates at time of sending: Khan (Buy ₮2,458 Sell ₮2,474), TDB (Buy ₮2,465 Sell ₮2,478), Golomt (Buy ₮2,460 Sell ₮2,476), XacBank (Buy ₮2,462 Sell ₮2,474), State Bank (Buy ₮2,460 Sell ₮2,476)

USD (blue), CNY (red) vs MNT in last 1 year:

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BoM issues 609.55 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding -8.1% to 609.55 billion

February 24 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 609.55 billion at a weighted interest rate of 14.0 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/

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Mongolia and China agreed to extend bilateral currency swap arrangement

February 24 (Bank of Mongolia) The Bank of Mongolia and the People's Bank of China have agreed to extend the local currency swap line during the meeting between Deputy Governor Lkhagvasuren Byadran and Deputy Governor Yi Gang on February 22, 2017 in Beijing, the People's Republic of China.

Currently two central banks have RMB 15 billion swap line, maturing in 2017. It is expected that the maturity will be extended to 2020 by the agreement.

The central banks first entered into the swap arrangement in 2011 with RMB 5 billion. The swap line was expanded two time in 2012 and 2014 to RMB 15 billion.

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Mogi: 100 billion rubles is around $1.7 billion

Russia extends Mongolia a 100 billion ruble loan

February 27 (UAWire) Representatives of Russia and Mongolia held talks on economic cooperation.

According to the head of the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tsendiyn Munkh-Orgil, the Russian side promised to provide the country a preferential short term loan in the amount of 100 billion rubles.

"The Mongolian side adheres to the position of the joint implementation of major infrastructure, energy projects, as well as for the Ulan Bator Railway from the preferential credit of the Russian Federation," said the minister.

The two sides also discussed improvement of the Mongolian-Russian-Chinese economic corridor. Afterwards negotiations should take place concerning the energy sector, in particular, the construction of hydropower plants on the river Eg, reports Mongolnow.

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Mongolia Economic Forum 2017, March 30-31

Mongolia Economic Forum-2017 will be held on March 30-31, 2017 at the State Palace, Ulaanbaatar. The Mongolia Economic Forum is the main event organized annually under the auspices of the Prime Minister of Mongolia.

This event, one of the largest and most prestigious in the country, which aims to bring together policy makers, the private sector and civil society representatives to discuss the economic issues. Over 1500 participants and ended each year, which included the President of Mongolia, Prime Minister of Mongolia, Speaker of Parliament, Parliament members, Ministers, foreign company representatives, businessmen, civil society and international organization representatives.

The theme of this year's forum is "Think sustainable, Act responsible" and over 1000 participants, including media representatives are expected to attend.

Registration is valid until March 25th 18:00!

More information: www.meforum.mn

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NRGI: Mongolia Macro-Fiscal Model

February 2017 (National Resource Governance Institute) Mongolia has experienced a series of economic booms and busts over the last decade, driven mainly by commodity swings but aggravated by excessive borrowing during boom times. Only few years after a balance of payment crises culminating in an IMF bailout in 2009, the prospects of massive revenues from giant copper and coal investments fueled a new spending spree. Between 2011 and 2016, government salaries, infrastructure costs and cash transfers spiraled. But when commodity prices fell again, the country was left facing renewed short-term financial pressures amid growing public debt. The government recently returned to the IMF to negotiate another bailout agreement.

The opportunities and challenges created by the mining sector highlight the need for careful planning and a solid policy framework that promotes economic sustainability. The Mongolian government took multiple important steps in this direction. In 2010, Mongolia's parliament adopted a set of fiscal rules as part of the Fiscal Stability Law setting ceilings on expenditure growth, structural budget deficits and on the stock of government debt. In 2017, the government is establishing a new sovereign wealth fund, the Future Heritage Fund, to accumulate a proportion of natural resource revenues for future generations.

But are these rules meeting their objectives? NRGI analysts have built a Mongolian macro-fiscal model in order to monitor progress and analyze challenges.

The model was developed to project a baseline scenario of the country's economy and describe how different shocks or policy changes would impact the trajectory of key macroeconomic and fiscal variables over a 30-year horizon.

Macro-fiscal models with similar aims have been regularly built by public agencies, international organizations and by the private sector. However, this model has a number of innovative features that make it distinct.

  • Macroeconomic models are used regularly in OECD economies; far fewer have been used in developing countries. Difficulties in obtaining reliable data, more limited resources to build and maintain such tools, and less experience in how they can be best used might all be potential contributing reasons for this. One aim of this tool is to support regular analysis of Mongolia's economic sustainability.
  • Most such models do not adequately address the significance and particularities of the natural resource sector. While many other sectors experience volatility, changes in expansion plans, tax terms, or the delays in mining mega-projects can have very large ramifications. By incorporating simplified financial models from the country's five largest mines, this model bridges the growing repository of financial models of mines, such as the open model of the Oyu Tolgoi mine and macroeconomic models.
  • Most such macroeconomic models are not publicly available. While some include a description of the model, main equations employed, key results and some parameters describing the robustness of the results, in very few instances is the full model made public. This model is open to wider reuse, scrutiny and adaptation.
  • Most such models are made with proprietary and hard-to-access software. The computationally heavy nature of modeling has led to a flourishing of dedicated tools for experts. These tools are both expensive and difficult to learn. This model is available in Microsoft Excel format and with a user-friendly interface, so that it can reach new users inexperienced with macroeconomic models.

This model was built using data from a variety of government, company and international sources collected throughout 2016. All data used is presented in the spreadsheet. It was also informed by a series of meetings with experts in Mongolia in November 2016 to refine calculations and clarify assumptions. Nevertheless, some uncertainties and data gaps remain, most importantly regarding the financial details of the largest mines in the country as well as contingent liabilities of the state. The model is also subject to errors and overlooked information.

For questions or to provide feedback on this model:

Author: 

David MihalyiDaniel BaksaBalazs Romhanyi

Download:

Mongolia Macro Fiscal Model (XLSX 8.36 MB)

Mongolia Macro Fiscal Model Summary Guide (PDF 1.01 MB)

Mongolia Macro Fiscal Model Guide (PDF 5.12 MB)

Mongolia Macro Fiscal Appendix (PDF 1.24 MB)

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China's coal imports from North Korea ease after sanctions

February 24 (Reuters) China's coal imports from North Korea eased last month after new U.N. Security Council sanctions curbing the isolated country's sales abroad came into effect, while Russia, Mongolia, Australia and Indonesia raised shipments, data showed on Friday.

January imports from North Korea eased 13 percent from a year earlier to 1.45 million tonnes, the data showed. They were down 28 percent from December.

January's volume accounted for almost 20 percent of the latest U.N. annual sales quota of 7.5 million tonnes or $400.9 million, whichever is smaller, on North Korea's biggest export.

The imports last month came before Beijing's decision last Saturday to ban coal shipments entirely after Pyongyang tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile in its first direct challenge to the international community since U.S. President Donald Trump took office.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he had not seen the latest figures, but that the latest U.N. resolution was clear about limiting North Korea's coal exports and China would fully enforce Security Council resolutions.

"According to our statistics, China has already approached the upper limits of coal imports from North Korea," Geng told a daily news briefing. "So because of this, we have stopped imports of coal from North Korea with a responsible attitude."

Sources said the few traders that have been left handling North Korean coal had been scooping up the fuel in recent weeks amid earlier speculation Beijing would slap a ban on imports after Pyongyang's recent ballistic missile test.

North Korea was China's biggest supplier last year of high-grade anthracite coal, used mainly by the country's steel mills, with imports reaching 22.4 million tonnes, up 14.5 percent compared with 2015.

Analysts have said steel mills will likely be forced to buy more expensive domestic anthracite or seek alternatives further afield from Russia or Australia, driving up costs.

Coal shipments from Mongolia rose 154 percent to 3.12 million tonnes, the fourth highest on record, as traders took advantage of its significant price advantage over Australian coal.

Australian imports were up 70.8 percent from a year earlier at 7.27 million tonnes.

Australian Newcastle spot prices fell sharply from about $93 per tonne at the end of December to about $83 by the end of January.

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China's coal consumption falls for 3rd year in a row

BEIJING, February 28 (AP) — China's consumption of coal fell in 2016 for a third year in a row, official data showed Tuesday, as the world's top polluter increasingly grapples with its massive pollution challenges.

The National Bureau of Statistics said coal consumption fell by 4.7 percent last year, according to preliminary calculations. The bureau said the share of coal in China's total energy consumption mix fell to 62 percent in 2016 from 64 percent the year before.

The burning of coal is the biggest source of heat-trapping greenhouse gases that are the primary cause of global warming.

While China is the world's biggest consumer of coal, its consumption levels have dropped as economic growth slows to its lowest level since 1990. With its major cities gripped by choking air pollution, China has also aimed to reduce coal usage in favor of natural gas and renewable energy.

The decline in coal use, however, did not signal an overall drop in energy consumption. The country's total use of energy rose by the equivalent of 4.36 billion tons of standard coal, an increase of 1.4 percent over the previous year, the statistics bureau said. Consumption of crude oil increased by 5.5 percent, natural gas by 8 percent and electricity by 5 percent, it said.

Consumption of renewable sources such as solar and wind power accounted for 19.7 percent of the total energy mix, up 1.7 percent from the year before, while the production of coal fell by 9 percent to 3.41 billion tons. China has for years been closing smaller, less efficient and more dangerous coal mines in a bid to boost productivity in the sector.

As the world's second-largest economy, China is the top emitter of man-made carbon dioxide emissions, with the globe's leading economy, the United States, in second place.

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Politics & Legal

Parliament expected to convene next week

Ulaanbaatar, March 1 /MONTSAME/ Last week, a few days before the Lunar New Year holiday, an irregular session of the Cabinet was held to discuss amendments to the 2017 State Budget. In accordance with the agreement between the Government of Mongolia and the International Monetary Fund on implementing Extended Fund Facility, the state budget of this year was in need to be changed.

It is expected that the Cabinet would submit the amendments to the Parliament soon after working days start tomorrow on March 2, following the public holidays of the Lunar New year - Tsagaan Sar. Then, the latter would call irregular session to discuss the budget adjustments.

Although the exact date of the irregular session has yet to be announced, Mongolian lawmakers will most likely convene within the next week. Some sources, including eagle.mn Mongolian news website, say the irregular session will be opened on March 6, Monday.

The spring session of the parliament normally commences in April every year. 

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Investment environment of Mongolia discussed at MFA

Ulaanbaatar, February 26 (MONTSAME) On February 24, a discussion under the theme "Legal environment of bipartite international investment agreement of Mongolia and its challenges and ways to solve" was organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Development Agency and National University of Mongolia.

The forum was attended by specialists in charge of investment issues from public organizations as well as representatives from research organizations and business entities. Such matters as tendency of international investments, current situation of the Mongolian investment environment and legal environment of the bipartite international investment agreement were touched upon.

At the discussion, D.Davaasuren, State Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs introduced about creating a sustainable environment of justice and cooperation for foreign investors and measures being carried-out by the Foreign Ministry with a view to ensure implementation of international agreements in accordance with an action plan of the government of Mongolia.

Moreover, the participants exchanged views on some issues, such as challenges faced by foreign to investors, opportunities to solve their difficulties and subjects to pay attention in establishing investment agreement with other countries.

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Central bank and police cooperate against illegal transactions

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) Bank of Mongolia and General Police Office agreed to cooperate in combating illegal transactions. On February 23, Governor of Bank of Mongolia N.Bayartsaikhan and General Police Office chairman, chief commissary O.Enkhtor signed 'Cooperation memorandum'.

They will cooperate in organizing trainings and promotion, prevention from illegal transactions, exchange of information and actions to reveal illegal transactions. Moreover, the cooperation targets to creation of database regarding illegal transactions using international payment cards and suspicious transactions.

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President extends Lunar New Year greeting

Ulaanbaatar, February 27 (MONTSAME) Marking the beginning of the Year of the Red Fire Rooster according to the lunar calendar, President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj extended greetings to the people of Mongolia, on the morning of the first day of Lunar New Year, February 27. 

In his greetings, the President said "The year has come to an end. I believe the new year of Red Fire Rooster will give its blessing upon our people."

"Every year has its characteristics. Our elders have told us that the Year of Red Fire Rooster will bless anyone who's working hard. And for everyone that are celebrating Tsagaan Sar across our expansive land, may the people of Mongolia live happy and prosperous. Mongolians around the world are also celebrating this glorious celebration of Lunar New Year. I extend my greetings to every Mongolian abroad and wish you all a good fortune and Khiimori in this Year of Red Fire Rooster." he added.

"May the year of Red Fire Rooster bless our people. And may everyone celebrate well." wished the President.

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Prime Minister wishes prosperous Year of Rooster

Ulaanbaatar, February 28 /MONTSAME/ The Mongolian Prime Minister, Mr Jargaltulgyn Erdenebat greeted with all Mongolians at home and around the world on the occasion of the first day of the Year of the Fire Rooster (February 27).

"There is no doubt that the newcoming Year of the Rooster will be as auspicious as the passing Year of the Monkey had been. The welcoming of lunar new year is the celebration for elders to be honored, children to be cheered and for families and relatives to get together and have fun, while wishing each other best of everything and reminding of traditions. I wish the people of Mongolia to have beautiful Tsagaan Sar and a prosperous year ahead!", said the Prime Minister. 

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State greetings on Lunar New Year

Ulaanbaatar, February 27 (MONTSAME) On the morning of the first day of the "Red Fire Rooster" year of lunar horoscope, the President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj paid his respect to the "Yusun Khult Tsagaan Tug" (Nine White Banners).

The President then visited the State House for the bow resting ceremony, which was followed by the greetings of the Parliament Speaker M.Enkhbold and Prime Minister J.Erdenebat to the Mongolian President and exchanges of "Khuurug".

After the greetings, the State Honored Artist Ts.Tserendorj played a Morin Khuur instrument (horse head fiddle), extending his praise towards the people of Mongolia.

Later on, Gavj  Yo.Amgalan of the Gandan Monastery and Khamba Lama Ch.Dambajav of the Daschoilin Monastery arrived at the State House to greet the President, Parliament Speaker and Prime Minster, as well as to discuss the envisions of the year of Red Fire Rooster. The Khamba Lama foretold that Mongolia will have prosperous development and its people will have high 'khiimori' ("wind horse" in Mongolian, meaning spirit and might of mind and soul) in the year of Red Fire Rooster.

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Julian Dierkes: Benchmarking Corruption

March 1 (Mongolia Focus) By Julian Dierkes

In January, Transparency International released the last instalment of its corruption perception index. I've already commented that Mongolia's drop in the CPI rankings was not very meaningful. The more I've looked at the CPI over the years, the more I have questioned its validity and meaningfulness given that it is/has become largely a meta-index of expert judgments. This does not strike me as a great way to assess corruption and the fact that the fluctuations in Mongolia's ranking do not really seem to be related to government policy, nor to prominent corruption cases, reinforces my sense of the overall utility of the CPI on an annual basis.

What global indices are good at, however, is to provide some kind of trend line relative to other countries that are similar in some way, be it there starting position, their policy responses to corruption or some other factor.

Given that it's been five years since I last placed Mongolia's ranking on the CPI in a context, let me return to that exercise here.

Mongolia's Performance over the Past Five Years

Before I look at the index here, I would recall that corruption has been talked about a lot during this period in Mongolia. The DP has always embraced this as an important topic in its campaign, but the other parties are equally dedicated to corruption, as least rhetorically. On the policy side, some measures have been introduced and strengthened, like parliamentarians' obligation to disclose assets, and the EITI, for example. The fate of the Anti-Corruption Agency has been more mixed during this point. While it has gained in prominence, it has also seemingly been instrumentalized by various political actors during this time period. The "Offshoreleaks" and "Panama Papers" cases have renewed public attention to corruption, as have the recent discussions around the purchase of 49% of Erdenet Mine from Russian investors.

With all this activity in the policy space and the public eye, few people seem to express a sense that much has changed about corruption, it is generally seen as still endemic.

The Asia Foundation's  2016 Survey on Perceptions and Knowledge and of Corruption, does show that corruption is no longer seen as urgent a "major problem" as other issues, like unemployment for example. The proportion of respondents speaking of corruption has thus declined from nearly 30% in 2006 to under 10% in the last several years. At the same time, the assessment that "corruption is a common practice in our country" has not budged, in fact it has been rising since 2014, with roughly 2/3 of Mongolians agreeing with that statement. The regularity of the SPEAK survey allows us to compare its results to CPI rankings.

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

CPI Score

36

38

39

39

38

Proportion: Agree with "common practice"

64.4%

62.7%

64.6%

65.7%

Mongolia Compared to Other Groups of Countries

TI itself offers a regional comparison, including Mongolia in the Asia Pacific grouping. The logic behind the regional approach is that perhaps there is some kind of a contagion effect that has an impact on corruption. When the CPI is constructed in Berlin, that may make a lot of sense, especially given the extent to which the EU radiates some of its policies and practices Eastward. But for Mongolia the regional grouping that includes as disparate and unconnected cases as Japan and Mynamar, with no meaningful regional interactions, this grouping makes less sense to me.

Substantively, I would be most interest in comparing Mongolia to a) post-state socialist countries, b) democracies, c) resource economies.

Mongolia and Post-State Socialist Countries

Let's look at post-Soviet countries in Eurasia first.

In this group, I would include Armenia (AM), Azerbaijan (AZ), Belarus (BY), Georgia (GA), Kazakhstan (KAZ), Kyrgyzstan (KG), Mongolia (MN), Moldova (MD), Russia (RU), Tajikistan (TJ), Turkmenistan (TM), Ukraine (UA), and Uzbekistan (UZ).

Just like was the case in 2012, Georgia stands out in this group with a 2016 score of 57 that is far better than Belarus (40), Mongolia (38), Armenia (33), Azerbaijan and Moldova (30), Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan (29), Kyrgyzstan (28), Tajikistan (25), Turkmenistan (22) and Uzbekistan(21).

In this group comparing 2012 scores with 2016 shows some improvement (BY + 9, GA + 5, TK +5, KY +4, UZ +4, AZ +3, TJ +3, UA +3, MN +2, AM +1, RU +1, KAZ +1). Only one country shows a decline in its 2012 vs 2016 score: MD -6. In this grouping then Mongolia's long-term trend is not very impressive.

Emerging Resource Economies

What countries could we group with Mongolia as an emerging resource economy for 2012-2016?

A place to start might be data on % GDP derived from mineral rents. Then let's select countries where this percentage has been above 8% for the period 2011-15 (no data for 2016 from the World Bank yet.

Burkina Faso (BF), Chile (CL), Dem Rep of Congo (CD), Guyana (GY), Liberia (LR), Mali (ML), Mongolia, Suriname (SR), Togo (TG), Zambia (ZM).

That seems like a reasonable comparison group, though Chile is hardly "emerging" at this point and the % of GDP from mineral rents has not increasing in any of these countries.

CPI scores increased in: SR +8, BF +4, GY +6, MN +2, TG +2, ZM +1. The score stayed the same in the CD and declined in: CL -6, LR -4, ML -2.

Again, Mongolia's performance here is middling at best. Take Suriname as an example. Mongolia and Suriname were very close in scores in 2012 (36/37, respectively), but the difference had widened to 7 (38/45). Why I don't know anything about this improvement in Suriname, even with doubts about the CPI generally, this seems like an important comparison for Mongolia.

Guyana has also made rapid progress to almost reach the score of Mongolia. Generally, African countries with large resource sectors have fared worse than Mongolia.

Democracies

To find some comparable democracies for Mongolia, let's start with the Freedom House ranking of 1.5. Countries at that level are: Israel, Ghana, Mongolia, Belize, Croatia, Latvia, Grenada, Mauritius, Poland, France, Lichtenstein. Of these Croatia, Grenada, Latvia, Poland became democratic around the same time as Mongolia.  They all have much higher corruption scores than Mongolia. This is a pretty amorphous group, however, and it would be more useful to somehow find a grouping of countries to compare to that is defined similarly, perhaps around constitutional forms, i.e. semi-presidential democracies? I'm not sure where I might find such a listing.

Some Conclusions

Rather than focusing on year-on-year changes in the CPI score, I've tried to compare Mongolia in the medium-term trend in the CPI to countries that are characterized by similarities with Mongolia in terms of history and economy. This comparison suggests that Mongolia's performance on the CPI criteria has been moderately positive. There are examples of similar countries who have performed much better, and examples of countries where corruption is perceived to have become much worse.

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Opinion: Working with Mongolia local government to prevent corruption

By Ashleigh WhelanCraig Castagna 

February 27 (Devex) "All politics is local" is a maxim so common as to become clichéd. Yet the wisdom applies to development work around the world.

Locally driven approaches to democracy and governance are valuable on a number of fronts, and we have found this particularly true in anticorruption programs. Anticorruption policies require a bottom-up approach that appreciates the current landscape, as well as the opportunities for corruption. They need to be able to access citizens directly, as only local governments have the capacity to do on a daily basis.

As in many countries, corruption is a key hindrance to development in Mongolia. The problem is very much on the minds of the Mongolian people: 76 percent of voting age Mongolians identify corruption as a major problem in the country. Several civil society organizations are dedicated to monitoring service delivery, and the government has formed an Independent Agency Against Corruption, tasked with conducting oversight of government officials and educating the public.

The municipal leadership in the capital of Ulaanbaatar, including former Mayor E.Bat-Uul and current Mayor Su.Batbold, sought out the International Republican Institute to help it engage with citizens and enhance civil servants' knowledge and capacity to fight corruption.

Here's what we learned:

1. Consultation is key. Working directly with the mayor, we were able to establish an anticorruption initiative within City Hall that convenes civil servants, civil society representatives and citizens. Through a consultative arrangement, citizens are able to identify gaps in transparency and accountability and devise solutions. For example, the initiative has worked to provide easy-to-comprehend materials that inform citizens on how public funds are allocated and spent.

2. Focus on prevention. One route to reform is to focus on prevention, by identifying susceptibilities to corruption before they happen. System inefficiencies are often visible when partnering with a country's local government. In Ulaanbaatar, we quickly established that budgetary malfeasance, facilitated by opaque rules and procedures, provided opportunities for corrupt behaviors or actions.

3. Foster inclusion through partnerships. As with any anticorruption strategy, it's important to be able to present findings in a manner that is truthful but does not alienate key stakeholders. Partnerships that involve a variety of actors in agenda-setting and decision-making can build an inclusive, problem-solving approach, rather than top-down recommendations.

This was the logic underpinning the rollout of IRI's Vulnerabilities to Corruption Assessment tool, first piloted in 2014 in Ulaanbaatar. The rollout of this formalized structure helped us identify the key elements that make governments susceptible to graft, with wide-ranging application for implementers across the anticorruption field.

Why local government?  

We have found that this approach is most effective when applied to local governments, as these entities play a direct role in providing everyday services to citizens and have the most interaction with the public. Armed with the lessons derived from the VCA, municipalities are able to better design interventions that will enable them to transform, over time, into "oases of good governance." Change in one area creates a positive precedent for neighboring local governments.

This approach doesn't end with the assessment. Rather, the tool can be employed to kick off a series of actions to address the vulnerabilities identified. As a result of our 2014 assessment in Mongolia, we have been working with the government of Ulaanbaatar to strengthen knowledge of ethics and have helped to design mechanisms to prevent conflicts of interest among civil servants. For example, infographic-style budget literacy tools have equipped citizens and the civil society organizations to monitor public expenditure and advocate for policy changes accordingly. The citizens of Ulaanbaatar recently did just that regarding educational spending.

Of course, following up these types of assessments with effective initiatives is by no means easy. Solutions require significant political will. It may require more time and effort than tackling individual cases of corruption to, for example, establish a task force of civil servants charged with finding cost-effective solutions for irregularities in identification cards processing. But the impact can also be more significant, attacking the systemic weaknesses that corrode public trust and faith in democracy.

Not all municipalities will have leaders willing to spend the political capital to become involved in this process. However, by highlighting successes and facilitating intra-country learning, development practitioners can present a persuasive case for local governments to serve as incubators for reform and action. In our experience, when initiatives are put forward as practical steps intended to increase citizen satisfaction, as opposed to top-down, punitive or politicized measures, government officials are more open to participating. This can also help anticorruption to stay on the agenda after a transfer of power between parties, helping to bolster the program's sustainability.

This is not to argue that there is no place for nationwide anticorruption efforts facilitated by development implementers in Mongolia. But our experience in Ulaanbaatar highlights that municipal governments can become drivers of wider systemic reform — engaging both the officials and the "little platoons" that are crucial to achieving genuine improvements. It turns out all politics really is local — and that goes for the development sector, too.

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EU-CSO Programme: Enhancing CSOs' Contribution to Governance and Development Processes in Mongolia

Deadline: 14 April 2017

The European Union (EU) is currently accepting proposals from eligible organizations for "Civil Society Organisations (CSO) Programme: Enhancing CSOs' contribution to governance and development processes in Mongolia". The objective of this call for proposals is to contribute to the reinforcement of Mongolian Civil Society Organisations as a pre-condition for a more equitable, open and democratic society for an inclusive and sustainable development and growth.

Priorities

  • CSOs as actors of governance and accountability
  • CSOs as key stakeholders in promoting inclusive, equitable and sustainable growth:

Size of Grants

Any grant requested under this Call for Proposals must fall between EUR 600 000 and EUR 900 000.

Eligibility Criteria

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Mongolia joins Global Consensus on Sustainable Livestock

Ulaanbaatar, February 26 /MONTSAME/ On February 24, a signing ceremony of Mongolia to join the Global Consensus on Sustainable Livestock, which was initiated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

Ts.Jambaldorj, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to Italy and Permanent Representative of Mongolia to the FAO signed the consensus and Mongolia becomes 17th country at a government level and 83th member of the program.

Following the ceremony, Ambassador Ts.Jambaldorj and Fritz Schneider, Global Agenda Chair of Global Consensus on Sustainable Livestock delivered remarks respectively.

With its commitment to the consensus, Mongolia, with over 60 million livestock population, will enjoy opportunities to closely cooperate with other member states on sustainable development of animal husbandry, making livestock animals healthy, manufacturing products of animal-origin and eco-friendly production of raw materials and exporting them to global markets. 

In this connection, the Government of Mongolia is developing a national program on the livestock industry. It is expected that the national program would be of assistance to the effective implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030, by corresponding with the Global Consensus on Sustainable Livestock and becoming wider in terms of its scope. 

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AmCham Daily Newswire for February 24, 2017

GOVERNMENT

Bank of Mongolia to be audited

Summary: Members of Parliament T. Ayursaikhan, Ts. Davaasuren, M. Oyunchimeg held a press conference to announce that a working group was established by Parliament's Economic Standing Committee to audit the Bank of Mongolia. The working group will conduct the audit from February 23 to April 30. The working group will grade the Central Bank on its operations designed to stabilize the currency exchange rate, the implementation and results of its financed projects, and the amount of currency in circulation and its effect on the economy. The MPs noted that the Bank of Mongolia's losses are covered by government securities, adding to burdens placed on the state budget, and that issues at the central bank must be identified and resolved.

Keywords: Bank of Mongolia, Standing Committee | The Century News /page 1/


Deputy Speaker meets with the Japanese Ambassador

Summary: Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ts. Nyamdorj received the Ambassador from Japan to Mongolia, Masato Takoaka. Ts. Nyamdorj noted that the relationship between the two countries has reached new heights in strategic partnership, and highlighted that if Mitsubishi opens a factory in Mongolia, relations would develop even further. Ts. Nyamdorj stated that the political relationship between the two countries is highly developed, but economic cooperation needs to improve. The Ambassador stated that based on the economic partnership agreement signed by Japan and Mongolia that economic and business partnership will flourish in the future. Speaking on behalf of Japanese investors, the Ambassador proposed commencing operations at the new Ulaanbaatar International Airport in Khushig Valley as soon as possible.

Keywords: bilateral relations, Japan, infrastructure | Today /page A2/


ECONOMY

Investment in the oil sector increases

Summary: Acting Director of Oil at the Mineral Resources and Petroleum Authority L. Radnasuren stated, "In 2017, 1.1 million tons of oil will be exported, contributing around 180 billion MNT to the state budget. This year, six companies will conduct exploration and several product sharing contracts are expected to be signed." With the announcement of the Ministry of Finance's plan to increase the excise tax on oil, consumers expect gasoline prices to rise in the near future. L. Radnasuren noted that gasoline prices will not rise in the next three months, highlighting that companies are looking for financing to establish a warehouse in Rashaant capable of storing 100,000 tons of fuel. L. Radnasuren stated that investment in the sector is increasing, based on a look at investment in exploration companies and exploration projects in Uvs and Khovd provinces commencing this year.

Keywords: petroleum, investment | The Official Gazette /page 11/


ONLINE STORIES

Thermal Power Plant II and III saw profits in 2016

Summary: The state's thermal power plants (TPP) released their financial reports for 2016. TPP II and III were profitable last year, while TPP IV operated with losses. TPP III had 104.9 billion MNT in sales revenue in 2016, an increase of 9.2% compared to 2015. Profit reached 234.7 million MNT, almost two times less than profit recorded in 2015. TPP II saw 19.1billion MNT in sales revenue, an increase of almost 18% compared to 2015. Profit nearly tripled, reaching 473.2 million MNT. TPP IV supplies about 70% of the central region's energy and sales revenue increased by 11%, reaching 216.7 billion MNT. Due to changes in the foreign exchange rate, TPP IV saw 20 million MNT in losses in 2015, but the number increased significantly in 2016, reaching only 3.9 billion MNT. The Mongolian Stock Exchange noted that the energy entity's total losses reached 2.9 billion MNT.

Keywords: MSE, energy | www.bloombergtv.mn


2017 marks the 45th anniversary of the Mongolia-Japan diplomatic relationship

Summary: This year marks the 45th anniversary of the Mongolia-Japan diplomatic relationship. In commemoration of the anniversary, several events have been planned to take place throughout the year. On February 10, an art exhibition and opening ceremony was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Minister of Foreign Affairs will lead a commission responsible for organizing 45 anniversary events to celebrate the relationship between the two countries in 2017.

Keywords: bilateral relations, Japan | www.montsame.mn


ANNOUNCEMENT

Summary: Please note that there will be no Daily Newswire from February 27- March 1, 2017 due to Tsagaan Sar holidays. The Daily Newswire service will resume as usual on Thursday, March 2, 2017. Happy Tsagaan Sar!

Keywords: AmCham, Tsagaan Sar | www.amcham.mn

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Business

BCM Trade & Logistics Working Group Needs Assessment Survey 2017

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you better. Please help us by taking a few minutes to tell us about the service you would like to see from the BCM Trade & Logistics Working Group. We would appreciate your participation and want to make sure we meet your expectations and improve our services. We would highly appreciate your feedback even if you are not a current member of the Working Group.

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Development Bank of Mongolia to participate in 'One Belt One Road'

February 24 (news.mn) Ch.Enkhbat, deputy director of Development Bank of Mongolia and G.Jigjidsuren, director of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development of Mongolia have visited the city of Shenzhen in China. The purpose of the visit was to discuss economic, industrial and infrastructure cooperation with this Chinese mega-city.

During discussions, the Mongolian delegation expressed interest in participating in the investment project under China's 'One Belt One Road' initiative which focuses on connectivity with Asia and Europe based on the famed Silk Road trading routes which once linked China with medieval Europe.

Shenzhen, is one of China's five largest cities (the population of 'Greater Shenzhen is over 10 million people - or three Mongolia's). Located in the south of the country it is important as being the site of China's first Special Economic Zone (SEZ), which opened in 1980 and kick-started the modernisation of the China into an economic superpower.

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Green Public-Private Partnerships for Public Infrastructure in Mongolia

GGGI recently published a report titled, 'Green Public-Private Partnerships for Public Infrastructure in Mongolia: PPP Model and Technical Guidelines for Green Education Buildings'. This report recommends Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) models and technical guidelines for green and energy efficient public education buildings tailored for Mongolia.

The PPP models provide detailed illustrations and comparable global practices for the contractual modalities through which the Government of Mongolia may effectively engage the private sector in the provision of public education infrastructure and services. The technical guidelines provide initial guidance to the government and various public and private stakeholders in the design and construction of green educational facilities. In the report, validation of various green design options against the baseline model was conducted through simulations in order to assess impacts of green design and technologies recommended in the guidelines. Compared to the baseline model, green options for new education buildings is expected to result in an GHG reduction of 47-67%, O&M savings (including energy costs) of 34-78%, whereas upfront construction costs increase by 13-65%. The recommended green option presents that its incremental costs can be recovered from lower operating costs within 22 years. In conclusion, the report recommends various policy measures in the legal/institutional, operational, and financial aspects in order to better facilitate the use of PPP schemes in the construction of green education buildings.

Increased investment in green infrastructure is an area where government efforts are essential for the transition to the green development model under the National Green Development Policy adopted in 2014 in Mongolia. Mongolia seeks to expand its use of PPP to improve the delivery of public infrastructure services, however, challenges in implementation remain. Since 2015, GGGI has collaborated with the Government of Mongolia in developing and implementing PPP models and technical guidelines for greener, pro-poor PPP applications. This report is the first effort to address policy and investment challenges through close collaboration between the Government of Mongolia and GGGI.

Building on the work on green infrastructure PPP models, GGGI's support will focus on helping the Government access low-cost finance for green public buildings and infrastructure projects by designing a financing structure that is most beneficial for Mongolia and enhancing public and private capital flows into the program, in partnership with development partners such as the Asian Development Bank. GGGI is currently working with the Ulaanbaatar City Municipality for designing and preparing pilot PPP projects starting from public education buildings.

Read the full report here.

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AmCham March Monthly Meeting, March 7

Date/Time: March 7, 2017, 8:30 am - 10:30 am

Location: Shangri-La Hotel Ulaanbaatar, Ballroom

AmCham Mongolia is pleased to invite you to attend our March Monthly Meeting with prominent business leaders of Mongolia for an in-depth panel discussion including a Q & A session.  Panelists Mr. Od Jambaljamts, President of MCS Group; Mr. Steve Potter, Executive Director of Wagner Asia Group Companies; and Mr. Tuyen Nguyen, Resident Representative for Mongolia at the International Finance Cooperation will discuss the current economic situation of Mongolia and forecasts for 2017.

AGENDA:

08:30

Registration and Networking

9:00

Opening Remarks by, Jay Liotta, Chairman of AmCham Mongolia

Panel Discussion and Q & A Session with the Speakers

10:30

Announcements and Adjournment

AmCham Members: FREE
Non-Members: 40,000 MNT

Please register below by Monday, March 6th, 2017 if you wish to attend:

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KT&G enjoys sales boom in Mongolia with tailored strategies

February 27 (The Korea Herald) Hallyu is strong in Mangolia, where there are three streets named after Korean places and around 7 in 10 cars are from Korea. Many stores also sell Korean products, including cigarettes. 

KT&G is showing a high growth rate in the country, which is a rising market for the exports of Korean firms. 

The company started off by selling 4.7 million cigarettes there in 2000 and has seen continuous growth since 2010. KT&G sold 750 million cigarettes there last year -- 160 times more than its first-year sales -- with its market share at around 17.8 percent.

The growth of KT&G's exports to Mongolia was led by the super-slim low-tar brand ESSE, which costs almost twice the price of Mongolia's most-sold cigarette Ulaan Shonhor, but ranks No. 1 among exported cigarette brands. It accounts for 78 percent of the market for super-slim cigarettes.

ESSE was able to achieve such a high market share due to KT&G's local marketing strategy that focuses on positioning itself as a premium brand.

Taking into account that the cigarette market in Mongolia has been growing in the area of high-tar regular products, it decided to sell a low-tar super-slim cigarette brand instead.

Recently, KT&G has been showing high growth in emerging markets, including Indonesia and America. Out of the 48.7 billion cigarettes sold overseas, 40 percent or 18.4 billion were sold in the emerging markets.

KT&G's foreign performance has been boosted by the expansion of its distribution networks to emerging markets such as Asia, Africa and America through product development based on the local tastes and trends.

Indonesia, for instance, is the world's third-largest consumer of cigarettes. The kretek cigarette, which has clove added to it, accounts for 90 percent of the market. Due to this distinct culture, foreign companies have found it difficult to enter the country.

With an aim to develop a product that resembles the kretek cigarette, KT&G released ESSE Change -- which uses a kretek blend -- last year, leading to more than 300 million cigarettes sold locally.

"The success was due to the continuous efforts in product development that aimed to suit the diverse tastes of the locals from various countries," a KT&G official said.

"We are going to regard ESSE, which has developed into a global brand, as a stepping stone to expand our exports to diverse countries further."

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Ulaanbaatar

10 clinics to be built in UB with Turkish aid

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) Sh.Ankhmaa, City Governor's Office's deputy in charge of social affairs received the delegations led by Ismail Hakki Turunc, the Chief Advisor of the Governor of Istanbul, Turkey. The sides discussed the project on the establishment of 10 hospitals using the non-refundable aid of Turkey. Within the project framework, 9 family clinics and a dialysis clinic will be established.

Sh.Ankhmaa expressed her gratitude towards the delegates for providing aid in Ulaanbaatar and said "Many projects are being implemented through foreign investment in Mongolia. But this project is one of the relatively few non-refundable aid".

A total of 152 family clinics are operating in 152 district committees throughout the city. And because of the scarce apparatus and obsolete facilities, the clinics are in dire need for reconstruction. Therefore, the renovation of nine clinics will be a relieving aid for Mongolia. The project is planning to commence with the construction season in April and Hakki Turunc mentioned that the construction work will be handled by Mongolian companies. Also, the project indicates that 10 medical apparatus will be installed in the Dialysis Clinic.

City Governor's Office has prepared the construction sites of the clinics. Specifically, 5000 m2 area of Dialysis Clinic in Khan-Uul district and 1000 m2 for each Family Clinics are planned by the Governor's ordinance. As for the Family Clinics, 600 m2 areas will be used for the facility and 400 m2 will be composed of green areas.

By the estimation of the Turkish side, each Family Clinics are expected to have 6 doctors that will provide medical service for 1800-2000 people which means they are capable of providing medical service to 12 thousand people. After visiting the selected construction areas, the delegates of Istanbul have met the authorities of Ulaanbaatar. Also, Sh.Ankhmaa noted that the Governor's office will provide support in every way possible to hasten the project.

Source: City Governor's Office

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UB Mayor receives Istanbul delegates

Ulaanbaatar, February 26 (MONTSAME) On February 24, S.Batbold, Mayor of Ulaanbaatar and Governor of Capital city received Turkish delegates led by Hakki Turunch, advisor to the Mayor of Istanbul city of Turkey. A visit of the Turkish delegation to Mongolia mainly focuses on commencing the construction works of nine family clinics and a dialysis center to be built in Ulaanbaatar with non-refundable assistance from Turkey. 

At the meeting, Mayor S.Batbold said "As Ulaanbaatar is a developing city, which faces a large number of challenges, the bilateral ties between Mongolia and Turkey will be strengthened to all spheres of cooperation in the future. E.Munkh-Ochir, Consul General of Mongolia in Istanbul has contributed significantly in the construction projects of health centers in Ulaanbaatar. Thanks to his efforts, the projects are showing great progress".

After expressing his gratitude to Mayor S.Batbold for receiving them, in turn, Mr. Hakki Turunch also praised the efforts and achievements of Consul General Munkh-Ochir and expressed its gratitude. He continued "We had visited to the construction site if the buildings of the health organizations, which we concluded that the sites have optimal locations. The construction works are likely to launch after we establish a memorandum of mutual understanding in the near future. The bilateral relations between the two countries will be further expanded as the Turkish side is ready to cooperate in a myriad of sectors with Mongolia in the future".

The Mayor Office of Ulaanbaatar issued an order to use 5000 sq. meter land for the building of dialysis center and each 1000 sq.meter for nine family clinics in Ulaanbaatar city. Also, each family clinics will have 6 doctors, each of whom will serve 8-13 thousand residents.

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Diplomacy

A Conversation With Mongolia's Foreign Minister Tsend Munkh-Orgil

Mongolian Minister of Foreign Affairs Tsend Munkh-Orgil gives an exclusive interview to The Diplomat.

By Peter Bittner

February 27 (The Diplomat) In an exclusive interview, Mongolian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Tsend Munkh-Orgil speaks with with The Diplomat's Peter Bittner about last fall's visit by the Dalai Lama and Mongolia-China relations, the MFA's expectations for working with the Trump administration in the United States, Mongolia's economic outlook, and Ulaanbaatar's air pollution.

(VIDEO)

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Foreign Minister addresses UN Human Rights Council session

March 1 (Montsame) Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia Ts.Munkh-Orgil delivered remarks at the high-level segment of the 5th meeting of the 34th session of the Human Rights Council. The session is taking place in Geneva, Switzerland from February 27 to March 24.

In his remarks, the Foreign Minister gave a thorough introduction of the policy, actions and measures carried-out by the Government of Mongolia towards the protection and promotion of human rights on a national level and in international fora. Watch full remarks by Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil here

During his participation in the Human Rights Council, Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil met with international high level representatives, such as Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva Michael Møller, High Commissioner of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid bin Ra'ad, Deputy Secretary-General of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Joachim Reiter, Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Kairat Abdrakhmanov, Foreign Minister of Albania Ditmir Bushati and Minister for International Development and the Pacific of Australia Concetta Fierravanti-Wells to discuss bilateral ties and international issues of mutual concern.

Also, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ts.Munkh-Orgil and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Albania Ditmir Bushati signed an agreement for between the Government of Mongolia and the Council of Ministers of Albania on mutual visa exemption for diplomatic and official passport holders.

Established in 2006, the Human Rights Council, is an intergovernmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe. In October 2015, Mongolia was elected as a Human Rights Council member and will be serving as a member until 2018 to contribute in the activities of the international community on human rights protection and promotion and to be involved in the decision-making process of the council.

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Malaysia detains three vessels, two from Mongolia

JOHOR BARU, February 26 (The Star Online): Three vessels have been detained by the Malaysian Maritime Enforce­ment Agency in the past three days for anchoring without permission and failure to produce relevant documents.

Two Mongolia-registered ships failed to produce insurance documents while another vessel registered with the Republic of the Marshall Islands was detained for anchoring without permission.

Tanjung Sedili district maritime director Capt Amran Daud said MT Ruby and Sun Moon, both registered in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, were detained on Friday.

Capt Amran said that earlier, his team detained another vessel from Majuro of the Marshall Islands for anchoring without permission and failing to inform upon arrival on Malaysian waters.

The ship was spotted by a patrolling unit at 2.9 nautical miles southeast of Tanjung Ayam on Feb 22.

He said the owner could be slapped with a fine of not more than RM100,000 or jailed up to six months or both, if found guilty.

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UAE Ambassador meets with Mongolia's President in Ulaanbaatar

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia, 26th February, 2017 (WAM) -- Abdullah Abdul Rahman Al Tunaiji, UAE Ambassador to Mongolia, has met with Tsakhia Elbegdorj, President of Mongolia, Jargaltulga Erdenebat, Prime Minister, Miyegombo Enkhbold, Speaker of Parliament, and Tsend Munkh-Orgil, Minister of Foreign Relations, at a reception celebrating the Mongolian Lunar New Year, Tsagaan Sar, in Ulaanbaatar.

At the meeting, Al Tunaiji conveyed greetings from President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to the Mongolian President, wishing for continued health and prosperity for the people of Mongolia.

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Justice Minister receives Ambassador of Italy

February 24 (gogo.mn) The Minister of Justice and Home Affairs, Mr. Byambatsogt Sandag received the Ambassador of the Italian Republic to Mongolia, H.E. Mr. Andrea de Felip. During this meeting, they discussed issues relating to the development of bilateral cooperation in the field of justice between the two countries.

Moreover, the Minister shared his views on cooperation in combating crimes related to narcotics, corruption, abuse of public office and organized criminality. He also expressed the interest in establishing agreements on mutual legal assistance in civil and criminal matters.

At the conclusion, the Ambassador praised the efforts of the Ministry in ensuring a favorable legal framework for foreign investors and businessmen, and introducing appropriate policies to this end.

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State officials welcome foreign diplomatic representatives for Tsagaan Sar

February 24 (UB Post) On the occasion of the Mongolian Lunar New Year, on Wednesday President Ts.Elbegdorj, Speaker of Parliament M.Enkhbold, Prime Minister J.Erdenebat, and Foreign Affairs Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil received heads of foreign diplomatic missions and resident representatives of international organizations representing their countries and organizations in Mongolia for the exchange of traditional Mongolian holiday greetings.

In the meeting's opening remarks, President Ts.Elbegdorj highlighted that Mongolia has played an active role in foreign policy at international and regional levels, including a trilateral meeting between the Mongolian, Russian, and Chinese heads of state; the signing of the World Trade Organization's trade facilitation agreement; ratification and implementation of an economic partnership agreement with Japan; and ratification of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

He emphasized that Mongolia is working to develop trade and economic cooperation to overcome the nation's economic challenges, and will closely collaborate with the diplomatic missions in 2017.

Dean of the Diplomatic Corps Kalybek Koblandin, Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to Mongolia, noted that international organizations and foreign countries have helped provide Mongolian herders facing winter challenges with financial aid and support services.

He also noted that Mongolia successfully hosted the 11th ASEM Summit and made significant achievements last year in global and regional arenas, including Mongolia's successful peacekeeping activities, fulfillment of the Member of the United Nations' Human Rights Council, ratification of the WTO's trade agreement, and establishing the International Think Tank for Landlocked Developing Countries.

Ambassador Koblandin stated that he hopes the Think Tank will officially open in Ulaanbaatar this year.

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MFA state secretary discusses ties with US ambassador

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) On February 22, D.Davaasuren, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia met with Jennifer Zimdahl Galt, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the US to Mongolia to exchange views on bilateral relations.

The dignitaries expressed their satisfaction for successfully implementing the issues agreed during a regular consultative meeting held Washington late last year. The sides pointed out the issues concerning mainly facilitating of bilateral relations and cooperation. In particular, they talked about Mongolia being selected by the US Millennium Challenge Corporation's Board of Directors as eligible to develop a second MCC compact as well as Transparency Agreement between the two countries, which is planned to take effect on March 20 of 2017, talks between Mongolia and the US to involve Mongolia in the H2 visa program of the US and events and measures in the scope of the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2017.

State Secretary D.Davaasuren thanked Ambassador J.Galt for the US has been rendering firm support for Mongolia to hold talks with the IMF on receiving Extended Fund Facility.

Ambassador J.Galt noted the USA is interested in increasing the people-to-people exchange between the two countries and will be pleased if Mongolian people would travel to the US for various purposes, including travel, business and education and training. Moreover, she requested the Mongolia's side to co-implement measures with the Mongolian side on promoting the need to provide accurate and true information on applications for US visa to the public.

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State Dept: Mongolian Lunar New Year (Tsagaan Sar)

Press Statement: Rex W. Tillerson, Secretary of State

Washington, DC, February 24, 2017 (U.S. Department of State) On behalf of President Trump and the American people, we send our best wishes to the people of Mongolia as you gather with your families and friends to celebrate Tsagaan Sar on February 27.

I hope that the new year brings you prosperity and success, and that the close ties between the American and Mongolian peoples continue to deepen as we mark the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our countries.

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Mongolia and Japan celebrating 45th anniversary of diplomatic ties

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) On this day 45 years ago, Mongolia and Japan established diplomatic relations. The opening ceremony for the celebration of this milestone was held on February 10, with a reception, photo exhibit and exchange of congratulatory note between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs.

In frames of the jubilee, the legislative bodies of the two countries will exchange visits, documentaries will be shown, booklets will be published and academic conferences will be held on the history of Mongolia-Japan friendship.

Moreover, a total of 45 events are planned throughout this year, including Mongolian traditional costumes' fashion show and cashmere fair in Japan, Morin Khuur Ensemble concert, Japanese Komaki Ballet and Ikebana Show in Mongolia, as well as contest of presentations about Japan, essay competitions and song contests will be held among children.

The organizing committee of Mongolia is led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and comprising of the Mongolia-Japan Friendship Group in the State Great Khural, officials from the ministries of Finance and of Education, Science and Sports, the Office of the Mayor of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolian National Broadcaster, Mongolia-Japan Friendship Community and representatives of NGOs and companies.

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Health & Education

Taiwan donates braille embosser to Mongolian national blind federation

February 24 (UB Post) The Taiwanese government donated a braille embosser to the Mongolian National Federation of the Blind (MNFB) on Wednesday to support learning experiences of the blind and visually impaired.

After handing over the embosser worth 15,000 USD, Taiwan's representative to Mongolia Huang Kuo-Jung and his secretary discussed further directions of mutual cooperation with Head of the MNFB D.Gerel.

The Taiwanese side mentioned that this was their first donation to the MNFB despite the many years of partnership between Mongolia and Taiwan. They chose to give away a braille embosser as advised by D.Gerel.

"We're happy to be able to assist the visually impaired in getting access to information quickly. This is the first time we've made a donation to the MNFB. We said that this was the beginning of our cooperation but we've already collaborated in many areas. For many years, we partnered with the MNFB and taught various skills, such as massage therapy, to people living with visual impairment. I'm confident that our cooperation will further expand in the future," said a representative from the Taipei Trade and Economic Representative Office in Ulaanbaatar during the meeting with D.Gerel.

D.Gerel stated that the majority of programs and projects implemented in Mongolia don't address problems faced by the blind and visually impaired, but Taiwan has been helping alleviate this issue in the last four years through all kinds of programs and workshops.

"The Taiwanese side has been organizing workshops and programs for the blind and visually impaired in Mongolia for four years. This time, they've donated an embosser worth 15,000 USD. The embosser is the most essential item for distributing information to people living with visual impairment," she said.

D.Gerel highlighted that the embosser will significantly help improve the learning experiences of the blind as it is three times faster than their current machine. She also criticized the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science for the lack of books and reading materials for the visually impaired.

"Our association isn't able to reach every blind member of the public. In fact, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is supposed to publish braille books. Yet, they make an excuse saying that the MNFB is supposed to carry out that work through projects. I believe that the situation will improve soon now that a law for the blind has been adopted," she noted.

Mongolia used to import braille books from Russia up until the late 1990s due to lack of equipment and financing. The MNFB opened the first library for the blind in 2005. Reportedly, there are 16,600 people living with visual impairment in Mongolia and only 9,000 of them are members of the MNFB.

The MNFB operates an industrial vocational training center, kindergarten, braille publisher, and massage therapy center.

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Students can apply for military course until March 10

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) On February 23, a press conference was held by the Ministry of Defense, Military Staff of Mayor's Office and Mongolian Student Association regarding Student Soldier program.

Colonel S.Ganbyamba, Head of Local defense – national military mobilization division of Department of Strategic Policy and Planning at the Ministry of Defense said, "With realization of Student Soldier program, students were given more opportunities to serve in the military, and it was a reformation in military service. Moreover, by taking an intensified military course, students are able to fulfill the requirement of having served in the military when applying for public service. Not only does the program shape patriotism in young men, it is helping them improve their tolerance and physical development.

For the last 3 years, 2390 students undertook the Student Soldier program in general military and professional military courses.

This year, the program registration will take place in compliance with the designated procedure on Student Soldier program on the basis of Law on Military Service, and the registration is open to students of all universities run in Ulaanbaatar city and those from Orkhon and Darkhan-Uul aimags.

The procedure reflects that 1000 students who passed the physical eligibility test will deposit MNT 76 thousand to take the theoretical training. Those who passed the theoretical training will be able to further their study.

The registration will continue until March 10, and the physical eligibility test will take place March 22-23.

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Culture & Society

Mongolia Severe Winter: Humanitarian Report (as of 15 Feb 2017)

February 27 (UN Resident Coordinator for Mongolia) --

OVERVIEW

Mongolia is currently experiencing harsh winter conditions which are severely impacting herders. The impacts of an unusually dry summer, late autumn rains and early, followed by heavy snowfall in September to November 2016 have combined to create an unfolding humanitarian crisis. The Government of Mongolia is reporting dzud or near dzud conditions in 127 soums of 17 provinces, and two districts of Ulaanbaatar City. It is estimated that 165,282 people (43,579 herder households) are at risk. One quarter are children, pregnant women, people with special needs and elderly people.

The extreme winter weather, following on from a drought during the summer of 2016, has depleted herders' reserves of hay and fodder. Heavy snow and ice cover in the north of the country, means grazing and the movement of animals has become increasingly difficult. With temperatures dropping to below -40 degrees, weakened livestock are at significant risk of ill health and death with humanitarian impacts on herder families.

The most vulnerable to the impacts of the severe winter weather are herder households with less than 200 head of animals, who have limited coping mechanisms. The poor health and death of their livestock places them at risk of decreased incomes, indebtedness, difficulties in purchasing essential items, and negative coping mechanisms such as withdrawing children from education.

A Joint UN-NEMA Rapid Assessment conducted in December 2016 found many herder households in affected areas were unable to meet their basic needs including food, clothing, fuel for heating and cooking fuel, hygiene products, livestock feed and emergency communications.

As well as the impact on vital livestock, the severe winter weather is also cutting people off from accessing essential services such as healthcare and education. According to the Ministry of Health, 2,479 pregnant women, 26,166 children under five and 12,813 elderly people are wintering in areas with no or limited access to basic services.

KEY NUMBERS

127 soums of 17 provinces affected

157,000 people affected (37,000 herder households)

12,600 people targeted with CERF funded projects

FUNDING OVERVIEW (US$)

$6,671,000 total amount required for the response

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Similar:

Mongolia's Herders Living on the Brink as 'Dying Season' Begins for Livestock in Extreme Winter 'Dzud'Save the Children, February 28

Extreme Weather Threatens Livelihoods in MongoliaSave the Children UK, February 27

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Teenage Girls Run Households During Mongolia's Winter Crisis

With Mongolia in the grip of a winter so severe it has already killed tens of thousands of livestock, many herders choose to stay in the countryside to tend to their animals, sending their children to towns to go to school and live in homes run by teenage girls.

By Terrence Edwards

KHAIRKHAN SOUM, Mongolia – Every morning, 17-year-old Nemekhbayar Enkhzayaa wakes up to find the water and bread have frozen overnight. She races to get the fire burning and tea made, so she and the three younger children she lives with can get to school on time.

In the small town of Khairkhan Soum, in Mongolia's Arkhangai province, Enkhzayaa is the head of what professionals call a "child-led home," where children take care of themselves and other children while their parents are away in remote corners of the country following their herds down centuries-old pasture routes.

Enkhzayaa is the oldest in the house this year, so it's her turn to take charge. That means buying daily necessities using the money provided by the children's parents, including soap and school supplies. It also means being the one to comfort the younger ones when homesickness strikes or they come down with a cold.

"Because I'm the oldest, I'm worried about the smaller ones when they're left alone," she says. "I don't know if they're OK, or getting cold."

Enkhzayaa had made sure that the round, tent-like home she runs was clean and warm before her guests arrived. Save the Children workers are visiting families and children around the province to take account of how bad this year's winter could turn out. After serving traditional salty milk tea and pastries in a white bowl, she takes a seat by the wood-burning stove at the center of the one-room home.

"We won't complain," she says. "But sometimes there are difficult times."

Winters in Mongolia are hard enough, but they become a fight for survival during the winter disaster known as the dzud. Extreme cold arrived early this winter, with temperatures dropping below -40F (–40C) in October. The dzud has been known to kill off over a million livestock in one winter. With tens of thousands of families in Mongolia reliant on traditional herding practices for their livelihoods, many herders have moved into towns to look for new sources of income.

Others have chosen to stay in the countryside to help their animals survive the cold. But to keep their children in school, many families send their sons and daughters to live in town – and often that means leaving them to look after each other.

Many locals consider the children of herders to be the same as orphans, with the children spending two-thirds of the year in dorms or child-led homes like Enkhzayaa's. "Sometimes it is difficult for the younger ones because they miss their parents," she says. "Because it's a challenging winter, they can't come so often."

Privately, she tells the Save the Children staff that it's hard for her to make the right decisions without advice from an adult. Although most of the food, firewood and other basics are brought to them by the parents on the few occasions they can visit, it's up to Enkhzayaa to keep track of everything their home needs. Her responsibilities leave her with little time for after-school clubs, seeing friends or studying.

Mongolians have superstitions about this being the Year of the Ape. Many fear this winter will be much more terrible than last, when more than a million livestock died.

"Herders are particularly vulnerable," says Erdenebileg Telmen, a program manager for Save the Children. "Rural families who have less than 100 or 200 animals are most vulnerable."

Leading a team to assess how they can best help the herders and their children, Telmen has learned that some herders in the Arkhangai province have already gone through half their year's supply of winter fodder for their animals. There is some relief now that the weather has tempered. But the really worry is what will happen come Mongolia's notoriously unpredictable spring, when sunshine can turn to blizzard in a moment's notice. Every head of livestock that dies is more than $500 lost for the family it belongs to.

Last year, Save the Children spent $1.1 million to educate officials throughout five of Mongolia's provinces on dzud response and teachers on how to help children cope with the stresses disaster brings. Other money spent went toward direct relief for families, such as removing dead animal carcasses and distributing livestock feed.

For the kids away at school, knowing the hardships their parents face every winter can lead to guilt over being away from home. Some will run away to get back to their parents. Others will drop out of school to go back to the countryside and help their parents.

For those who do stay in school, even traveling back and forth to see their parents during the holidays is a challenge. "Teenage girls sometimes travel 70 kilometers (43 miles) on the road on top of a small truck for three hours," says Save the Children staffer Sandagsuren Tamir. "It's dangerous for them … They say, 'We have so much fear,' and they're so cold."

Some students live in school dormitories instead of in child-led homes, but even then girls still find themselves taking on the responsibility of looking after the other kids. At one school in Khairkhan, Khatkhuu Erdenesuvd, 16, makes sure the two younger girls she rooms with get their homework done and get into bed by 10 p.m.

"The advantage of [living in] the dorm is becoming independent," says Erdenesuvd of life away from her parents.

Enkhzayaa agrees, saying she, too, has learned a lot about being a young woman. She hopes that running a child-led home will help her become independent enough to leave her small town for bigger and greater things. "I want to be a doctor and study in [Mongolian capital] Ulaanbaatar," she says. "I want to be an ob-gyn."

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Severe winter killing off livestock in Mongolia

BEIJING, February 28 (Channel NewsAsia) : Thousands of Mongolian herders are facing disastrous livestock losses from a dreaded severe weather phenomenon known as the "dzud".

Temperatures in parts of Mongolia have gone as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius, while snow is blanketing more than three-quarters of the country, threatening the livelihoods of herders who depend entirely on livestock for food, transportation and income.

A dzud used to occur only once every 12 years, but now appears roughly once every four years. Climate change is believed to be behind this new pattern.

This is the second year in a row that landlocked Mongolia is grappling with dzud conditions.

More than 1 million animals perished during last year's dzud, while more than 8 million died in the previous one in 2010.

The current dzud has killed more than 40,000 animals so far, but experts said the worst is yet to come.

Non-governmental organisation (NGO) Save the Children has warned that Mongolia's poorest herders are increasingly going into debt just to buy food.

They are also selling off their livestock cheaply and skipping meals as they brace for large-scale livestock deaths over the coming months.

The Red Cross has estimated that currently, more than 157,000 people are at risk this year across 17 of Mongolia's 21 provinces.

Among them is Daariimaa Bileg, a nomad who herds animals about 50 kilometres outside Ulaanbaatar, the capital city.

"The dzud is difficult for everyone," she said. "Two of our children are students. That means if our livestock don't make the winter, we won't be able to afford their tuition fee for the next year."

"Hence we're doing our best to keep our animals alive. As livestock is our (only) source of income, I often have trouble sleeping because of the stress and worry of losing our livestock," she added.

Mongolia's recent economic downturn has also added to the crisis by limiting the government's ability to prepare.

Stockpiles of fodder and hay are reportedly much smaller than planned, and there is less help for vulnerable herders.

The Red Cross has launched an international emergency aid appeal while NGOs like Save the Children are providing relief including hay and veterinary packages to keep animals alive.

"The next couple of months in particular are really important," said Evan Schurrman from Save the Children. "If we see huge amounts of snowfall and temperatures remain really low in the minus 30s and 40s and 50s, then we really could see huge numbers of animals deaths, similar to last year when more than a million animals died."

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Severe winter 'dzud' continues to ravage MongoliaHumanosphere, February 27

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GoPro: Eagle Hunters in a New World

February 23 (GoPro) On the Western plains of Mongolia a nomadic group of Kazakhs continue the ancient practice of hunting with golden eagles. The Burkitshi are a small and dwindling community, eager to pass on their traditions in the face of growing modernization in Mongolia.

Original score by William Ryan Fritch 

"Eagle Hunters In A New World" the full soundtrack is available on Vinyl, CD, Digital through Lost Tribe Sound: http://goo.gl/C1o9gf

Special thanks to Lauren McGough and Jagaa Baatar for leading the team out on the steppes.

Shot 100% on the HERO® cameras from http://GoPro.com.

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Tsagaan Sar - Lunar New Year celebration begins in Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar, February 26 (MONTSAME) In Mongolia, today is the Eve of the Lunar New year – Tsagaan Sar. The Mongolian Lunar New Year rituals begin on the day before Lunar New Year's Eve when every family cleans their home. The title of the day can be translated as 'Dust Beating Day' because homes are beaten off their dust as everyone engages in the cleaning and washing campaign to welcome the New Year afresh. 

On Lunar New Year's Eve, which is called Bituun (literal meaning; close down) and can be understood as a preparatory day, households prepare a big feast for a Bituun ceremony which begins after sunset. The last day of the year is called Bituun because the moon can't be seen on this day and all unfinished business must be settled within the day.

Bituun ceremony begins after sunset. All families cook foods and set the table for dairy products, drinks and sweets and put a white stone, limpid ice at the west jamb of the door. It is an auspicial to open door of good direction's owner and periapt. Also, they put thorny bush, sagebrush at the east jamb of the door. It means to close bad direction's internal malfeasance.  

All behaviors of Lunar New Year's Eve or Bituun have full of optimism and brightness to welcome the New Year. That day, Mongolians symbolize that all of unpleasant memories will be stayed with old year and door of satisfied and wealthy life will be opened in an upcoming New Year. 

On the evening of the Lunar New Year's Eve or Bituun, Mongolians wear clean and nice clothes and gather in each of their parents' home to eat dinner. During the Lunar New year eve's dinner, elder people tell their children and youngsters folk tales and myths and all members of the family play knucklebone games and other traditional games. It is customarily prohibited to leave their livestock animals or belongings at the place of others, drink heavily, talk about any bad things or news, argue with someone and stay hungry.

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Bituun (Tsagaan Sar Eve)

February 26 (gogo.mn) BITUUN (TSAGAAN SAR EVE)

The last of the winter season is celebrated by Mongolians from the very old times and this celebration is called Bituuleg derived from the verb Bituulekh, which means celebration of the last day of the month by the lunar calendar a day of dark moon. This day should be spent with celebrations with special rituals by every household. Moreover, people believe that every misunderstanding or outstanding debt should be figured out and paid back. Before the Bituun every household dusts the home, cleans every corner and conducts the offering rituals for the gods. At the evening of Bituun father places ice on the upper side of the entrance door to invite the good spirits, while placing weed and thorns on the upper left side of the entrance door to shoo away the bad spirits. After this ritual every family member changes into new garments, give offerings to spirit of fire and gods and then celebrate the night.

Why ice is put on the entrance during Bituun?

Mongolians believe that good spirits are always protecting them from the bad spirits and during the big celebrations have tradition to please the spirits with offerings. One of the greatest offerings is the ice put on the upper right side of the entrance, as the ice is believed to be offered for the horse of the good spirit and white grain is put for the spirit. As the spirit travels the world with great speed Mongolians try to put the offerings before the sunset to make sure that good spirit is pleased with offerings.

Feast at Bituun

Bituun feast is prepared with closed cook an intact sheep's head with the chin-bone and tongue still in place, make offerings to the God as a sacrifice and break open a marrow-bone. This is called "Bituurekh". In Bituun one needs "to eat to repletion" or to have enough food. This symbolizes plenty of food and full belly in the coming New Year. In Bituun households place on the food-table a sheep's carcass and cow breastbone. The carcass tail is to be decorated by butter extracted from milk by churning or from cream by heating and its leftovers.  Other pieces of meat need to be arranged according to the practiced rules. The neighbors exchange Bituun food.

Things to avoid on the Bituun day

1. As this day is the very last day of the year people avoid to wander around going from ger to ger (traditional felt dwelling of the Mongols) and spend night at someone else's home, believing that soul will wander the whole next year. Fathers or household head should stay at home so that all the good blessings stay at household.
2. Beating or getting the dogs whining. It is believed that dogs should be fed and treated nicely, otherwise the whole next year bad things will happen
3. To walk out with full mouth and spill dirty water on the ground. It is believed that bas spirits will lick the mouth and bring bad health.
4. To leave the house dark, leave the outer garment outside and call the babies by their names. It is believed that bad spirits will do harm.
5. To stay hungry on Bituun evening. It is believed that staying hungry on this day will prophet hunger for the whole state so that everyone makes sure that one has eaten.
6. To talk to each other loudly from inside and outside ger, otherwise the whole year the household will be experiencing disputes.

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Year of the Red Fire Rooster welcomed

Ulaanbaatar, February 27 (MONTSAME) Tsagaan Sar or Lunar New Year officially begins when the sun rises on the first day of spring /by lunar horoscope/. This lunar year is attributed as a Red Fire Rooster

The ancient nomadic people's first statehood, the Hun was established over 2000 years ago in the current territory of Mongolia and later became the Great Mongol Empire under Chinggis Khaan's rule. Mongolians wake up early before the sun, wearing their freshly made deel (Traditional costume), brews their tea to offer the best to the mother-earth and proceeds in greeting their family.

Each family member greets the elders first. The edge of Khadag /traditional ceremonial scarf/ must face the greeting person. Traditionally, the younger person greets the elder by grasping their elbows to show support for them and say "Ta amarkhan sain baina uu?" (Are you living peacefully?), allowing the elder to kiss them on both cheeks. The elder should respond "Amar mend ee" (Living trouble-free). After sitting behind the feast table, the guests and the elders exchange Khuurug (snuffle-bottle with a fine-ground tobacco inside) with its lid released and say "Ta sar shinedee saikhan shinelej baina uu?" (Are you celebrating well?). And the response should be "Saikhan, saikhan" (Good and well).

For Mongolians, exchanging khuurug means to strengthen the bonds between family and friends. Same-aged people greet by crossing their wrists. Also, it is a taboo for spouses to greet each other, as their souls are counted as one. For pregnant women to greet each other is another taboo for Mongolians as it claims that the genders of the unborn would change.

Another tradition that tourists find strange is the ethics of starting footprints. The good and taboo directions of 12 years and 28 stars are explained upon the drawings of celestial direction in the pictorial representation of 'eight seats' in lunar horoscope which wards off the misfortunes of that year. This unique tradition is mostly related to Mongolian shamanism.

Tsagaan Sar traditions are originated from the ancient Daoism and was enriched by Buddhism, which became the unique cultural and religious heritage of Mongolia. On the first day of Lunar New Year, the head of a family practices the tradition of 'starting footprint', wearing a full garment of Mongolian traditional costume and ride their horses to the top of the hill before sunrise in order to offer treats and pray to the spirits.This represents the anticipation of good fortunes in business and work in the upcoming year. The tradition is still being kept in modern days as the people in the city prioritizes the tradition of starting footprints on the first day of spring.

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First day of Tsagaan Sar

February 27 (GoGo Mongolia) FIRST DAY OF TSAGAAN SAR

In the first morning of Tsagaan Sar young and old alike get up early, take some food, tea, table or mat etc and go to "ovoo", cairn erected as a shrine or to an eminence, and have ceremony such as praying to the heavens and making a ritual start in a prescribed direction at New Year. From there, they go to give New Year greetings to their parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and neighbors in order of age. People greet each other in a unique way. The younger people vow to the elderly and cross their hands under the hands of the older people supporting their elbow, with an offer of "Hadag", a blue scarf as token of respect.

Greeting with Hadag

Hadag differs by its length and symbols on it. If it has image of a human it is mostly given to parents, elders and honored guests. If the hadag has sun, moon and words, it is mostly used during funerals.

Hadag should be given to elder with the open end of a fold directly to hands of other person and should be received with both hands and respectfully folded and put away. When greeting an elder or respected guest with hadag special greeting words that ask if the greeted person is in good health and if the New Year is being good.

But the hadag greeting also differs by how the greeting person holds the hadag. If the person has wrapped ring finger twice with hadag, it means he shows respect and greets everyone with hadag and this hadag stays with the person. Usually elders do so.

If the person is holding hadag without wrapping finger it means he intends to gift the hadag and one must receive it respectfully. If person you are to greet starts wrapping the ring finger with hadag it also should be understood as great respect towards you.

Greeting with snuff-bottles

Thereafter, the guests have a seat and exchange snuff-bottles in greeting and say: have you got through the winter in plenty and seeing at spring well. With these traditional New Year greetings they encourage each other.

Younger person starts the greeting with snuff-bottle by loosening the cap of the bottle by turning it to right three times and snuffing it first and offer it to elder person with right hand. In return elder person gets own snuff-bottle loosens the cap as well and exchange. Loosening the cap means that person has no bad thoughts and comes in peace. Receiving the snuff-bottle should be done with both hands, proceeded with sniffing the bottle and giving it back little bit tightening the cap, which means the person accepts coming in peace.

It is prohibited to loosen button on deel and roll up sleeve when greeting with snuff-bottle.

When the elderly offer a round of drinking and singing, long-songs "Bogd Chinggis Khaan", "Heavens Wind", Stupa Height" are performed in chorus and a couple of drinks can be consumed. Then the guests say "many visits ahead, long distances to go, horses get frosted", and mount their horses to continue their visits.

Another practice is people observe signs of the coming year from dawn till dark during the first day of Tsagaan Sar. For example, a slow break of day at dawn and crystal-clear cloudless sky at sunrise symbolizes a fortunate year for babies and little ones.

Things to avoid doing during Tsagaan Sar

1. To get water from springs or rivers. Water buckets should be filled beforehand
2. To sew old clothes. Only sewing of new garments are welcomed and seen as good wishing for New Year.
3. To borrow and lend.
4. To cry and quarrel. It is believed that whole year will be bad with disputes.
5. To throw away ash from stove. Cleaning should be done on Bituun.
6. To say bad words, to hunt, to kill animal.
7. To greet elders and relatives, to go to other household on seventh day of New Year, as this year is considered as black day.
8. To greet one's husband or wife. Doing so might end in split and become enemies.
9.  To overdrink and be disrespectful at the feast table.
10. To carry knife. This means that someone came with bad intentions.

Historically, Tsagaan Sar has been always the most honored celebration as it has to do with all, young and old alike.

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Gandantegchenling Monastery to perform chants for 15 days

February 24 (MONTSAME) Following its Tsagaan Sar traditions, Gandantegchenling Monastery, central institute of Mongolian Buddhism will perform a chant called 'Tseder Lhamo' which is a praise to the Protectress Palden Lhamo on Bituun, Buddhist blessings from the first day of lunar new year until the 15th day, and torma (balin in Mongolian) blessing ritual.

J.Odgarig, Head of Press Division of the Gandantegchenling Monastery explained the meaning of the Praise to the Protectress Palden Lhamo for us.

  • 'Tseder Lhamo' chant is performed on Bituun day every year, and it's an offering to Palden Lhamo. 'Tseder' means new year offering in Tibetan. In other words, it can be understood as an oblation of the Buddhist followers in appreciation of the deity's commitment for their well-being.

In the evening of Bituun, New Year's Eve, Mongolians prepare their festival feast, place a white stone and ice on the right side of the door lintel to invite good deities in and barb on the left side to bar malevolent deities. Mongolians have believed in an eastern tale about Palden Lhamo, one of the 1000 deities of Buddhism, encircling the earth on her yellow mule and visiting every home on Bituun evening, and the above ritual corresponds to this belief. The ice on the lintel is intended for Palden Lhamo's mule to drink.

  • According to Buddhist teachings, every being can achieve enlightenment, there are many gods who have found enlightenment from unimaginable time to this day, and this process will continue. It is believed that existence will find peace when every living on earth reaches enlightenment. There's a concept of Bodhisattva vow in Buddhism when Buddhist practitioners take a vow to attain complete enlightenment for the sake of all beings. Palden Lhamo deity who is believed to visit every home on Bituun is a Bodhisattva who has taken the vow. To fulfill her promise to protect sentient beings, she visits each home, and converts poison into remedy.

Spring festival is widely celebrated in the east, and Mongolians' spring festival Tsagaan Sar is a symbolic festival with national and religious significance. Therefore it is rich in religious rituals which include mur gargah (leaving a new footmark) and blessing for the whole year which leads to many people destine to Gandan and other monasteries for monks to perform different chants. Thus, we sought to know which chants the monks of Gandantegchenling Monastery perform for Tsagaan Sar.

  • Gandantegchenling Monastery has maintained the rituals for Buddhist ceremonies set by generations of Mongolian Bogd lamas until today. In particular, the first Bogd, Undur Gegeen Zanabazar, and the 4th and the 8th Bogds determined and taught the reflection of Buddhist customs and principles in chanting ceremonies. As an initiation to Tsagaan Sar, we perform 'Old mantra' for three days, 'Torma blessing ritual' for one day and 'Hajidyn Chogo' for one day. On Bituun, we perform the chants to praise Palden Lhamo. On the first day of Tsagaan Sar, we perform blessings of Buddha, inducing a prosperous year for everyone.

This year, the first day of Tsagaan Sar falls on February 27. Though there are many times when Mongolia's Tsagaan Sar coincides with the spring festivals of other eastern nations like China, Japan and Korea, Mongolia's Tugsbuyant calendar system indicated a different date this year.

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Mongolia: A Changing Landscape

By Paula Bronstein, Photojournalist

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East Meets West: Medieval European Travellers and the Great Khans of Mongolia (8th March 2017)

February 27 (Cardiff Medieval and Early Modern Reading Group) Next meeting: 8th March 2017 / Room 2.04 / 3-5pm

Genghis Khan and The Mongol Empire

Genghis Khan (b. 1162, d. 1227), born Temüjin, was the founder and first Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, which was the largest contiguous land empire in history. Originating in the steppes of Central Asia, the Mongol Empire eventually stretched from Central Europe to the Sea of Japan, extending northwards into Siberia, eastwards and southwards into the Indian subcontinent, Indochina, and the Iranian plateau, and westwards as far as the Levant and Arabia.

Temüjin rose to power in the late twelfth century. When his wife, Börte, was kidnapped by the Merkit tribe, Temüjin united the rival Mongol tribes under his rule through political manipulation and military might. With the help of Toghrul, Khan of the Keraites, and his childhood friend, Jamukha, Temüjin defeated the Merkit tribe, secured the return of his wife, and went on the defeat the Naimans and Tatars.

Temüjin was elected khan of the Mongols in 1186. In the following year, however, Jamukha attacked Temüjin defeated him at the Battle of Dalan Balzhut. Temujin and his patron Toghrul were subsequently exiled. In 1197, the Jin dynasty initiated an attack against the Tatars, with help from the the Keraites and the Mongols. Temujin commanded part of the attack, and after his victory the Jin restored him to power. In 1201, Jamukha was elected Gür Khan, which caused Temüjin to declare war on him.  After several battles, Jamukha was turned over by his own men, and Temüjin was victorious.

By 1206, Temüjin had managed to unite or subdue the Merkits, Naimans, Mongols, Keraites, Tatars, Uyghurs, and other disparate smaller tribes under his rule. He was acknowledged as Khan of the consolidated tribes and took the new title, 'Genghis Khan'. The title Khagan – or 'Great Khan' – was conferred posthumously by his son and successor, Ögedei, who took the title for himself.

Genghis had four sons by his wife Börte, including Jochi, Chagatai, Ögedei, and Tolui, and he divided his empire among them; however, Genghis did not name his eldest son, Jochi, as his successor as there was widespread doubt over his paternity. Chagatai declared that he would not accept Jochi as his father's successor and threatened to go to war with his brother. To avoid civil conflict, Genghis named his third son, Ögedei, as his successor.

Three of the descendants of Genghis Khan – Güyük Khan, Möngke Khan, and Kublai Khan – are described in the travel narratives of John of Plano Carpini, William of Rubruck, and Marco Polo. Güyük Khan reigned from 1246 to 1248, and he was the eldest son of Ögedei Khan. Möngke Khan reigned from 1251 to 1259, and he was the eldest son of Tolui Khan. Kublai Khan reigned from 1260 to 1294, and he was the second eldest son of Tolui Khan.

Kublai Khan established the Yuan dynasty, which ruled over present-day Mongolia, China and Korea and he assumed the role of Emperor of China. By 1279, the Mongols had conquered the Song dynasty and Kublai became the first non-native emperor to conquer all of China. By the time of Kublai's death in 1294, the Mongol Empire had fractured into four separate khanates or empires, each pursuing its own separate interests and objectives: the Golden Horde khanate in the northwest; the Chagatai Khanate in the middle; the Ilkhanate in the southwest; and the Yuan dynasty in the east based in modern-day Beijing

The Travellers and their texts

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Historical records of Genghis Khan's empire translated into Mongolian

February 28 (Xinhua) Historical records compiled more than 600 years ago about Genghis Khan's empire have been translated into the Mongolian language, experts said Tuesday.

The records consist of 15 books with 210 volumes and chronicle the rise and fall of the Mongol empire. They were compiled in 1370 as ordered by Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), which ended Mongolian reign in China.

Over the past six centuries, historians have made several attempts to translate the books, written in Classical Chinese, into Mongolian. But the efforts were interrupted due to difficulty and war.

In March 2014, 16 experts in Mongolian history teamed up to start translation. They believe the historical records could help Mongolian people better understand their own history.

The books will be published in the next two years.

One of the largest empires in history, the Mongol Empire, later known as the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) in China, once extended from China to Central Europe. Its founder, Genghis Khan, unified nomadic tribes before conquering large areas of Eurasia.

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Nature & Environment

Endangered antelope in Mongolia faces extinction

February 25 (DPA) A critically endangered species of antelope in Mongolia is facing the threat of extinction due to a virus that has wiped out 40 per cent of its population after being passed on from sheep and goats.

More than 3,880 saiga antelope have been found dead in the Great Lakes Depression of western Mongolia since late December.

Their deaths have been attributed to a virus called PPR, or Peste des Petits Ruminants, which was first discovered in Mongolian livestock in September and is believed to have spilled over to the saiga.

Workers regularly burn the antelope carcasses to prevent the spread of the disease.

Now wildlife experts are concerned the virus, combined with harsh winter conditions and scarce food, might spell doom for the species.

About 10,000 saiga antelope lived in Mongolia before the epidemic began, experts say. That number is down to about 60 per cent and counting.

"The saiga antelope is already under threat from poaching pressure and competition with livestock for access to pasture and nutritional resources," Amanda Fine, a veterinarian and associate director with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Asia, said.

"The additional impact of a disease like PPR, which could reduce the population by 90 per cent, is an extinction risk and this die-off must be addressed with that likelihood in mind."

The virus causes pneumonia and alters the animals' gastrointestinal tract. They die a few days after having shown signs of dehydration and weakness. Videos provided by the World Wildlife Fund Mongolia show antelopes struggling to breathe.

This is the first time both antelope and livestock in Mongolia have been exposed to PPR, so their immune system was not equipped to fight the virus, Fine said.

The antelope shared the pasture more closely with sheep and goats during winter, thus becoming infected.

The virus likely entered Mongolia from neighbouring China, as it's related to a strain from a Chinese outbreak in 2013-2014, experts say. It is not transmissible to people.

Vaccination of Mongolian livestock against PPR has largely been "uncoordinated, sporadic and ineffective," Bouna Diop, secretary of the PPR Global Eradication Programme, said.

The programme was set up by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) last year, with the aim of eradicating PPR globally by 2030.

The cost estimate for its first five-year phase is 996 million dollars.

The implications of the PPR outbreak could extend well beyond the tawny-coated antelope to affect other wildlife and ultimately people's livelihoods.

FAO and OIE experts who visited Mongolia recently found that the virus has spread to two other wildlife species, the ibex and the goitered gazelle.

Diop said PPR could spread further into central and eastern Mongolian regions, disrupting the ecosystem and posing socioeconomic and food security problems.

"This is a true international emergency, threatening the health of rural people through impacts on food security and livelihoods," she said.

More than a third of Mongolians depend on livestock to live. The country exports large quantities of live animals, meat, milk and cashmere wool.

There's already evidence of the PPR occurring in yak and domestic Bactrian camels.

FAO and OIE, with support from WCS, have established a crisis management centre and animal health rapid response team in Mongolia. The team collects samples from dead saiga, conducts necropsies and provides recommendations to local authorities.

However, donors have yet to fund the joint FAO/OIE livestock vaccination programme, said Richard Kock, a professor of emerging diseases at the Royal Veterinary College in London, who is part of the rapid response team.

"It is a great pity," Kock said, "as the spread and expansion of the virus has been apparent since the beginning of the millennium, but it affects poor people, and they don't have much influence."

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Similar:

Sheep disease devastates wildlifeThe Scottish Farmer, February 25

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Saiga Conservation: A short overview of the situation in Mongolia

February 24 (Saiga Conservation Alliance) Our colleague, Richard Kock from the Royal Veterinary College in the UK, worked on the Mass die-off in Kazakhstan in 2015, he recently came back from carrying out emergency research into the terrible scene unfolding in Mongolia.

In these two very short clips he explains what is going on. Thanks to DW Global Ideas for sharing:

Is an extinction of the Saiga antelope possible?

Saigas: killed again by the virus

You can help!

We have launched an appeal to raise funds to support the efforts of the Mongolian government and International scientists. Every last penny and cent counts and goes directly to the appeal. As ever, it is due to the amazing support of our 'Saiga Friends' that we are able to make a difference to the future of this unique species. Thank you

Visit our fundraising page here 

More information

An outbreak of a devastating disease, sheep and goat plague is killing saiga antelopes and other unique and imperiled animals in Mongolia.

Already more than 4,000 saigas have suffered a horrible death, and the epidemic only seems to be picking up speed.

What we know so far

Experts from the Saiga Conservation Alliance's in-country partners – WWF Mongolia and WCS- Mongolia – and scientists from the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Royal Veterinary College and FAO, are on the scene, investigating the causes and working with government agencies trying to stop the spread of the disease before more of saigas and other animals fall victim to it.

While wildlife have long been considered potentially vulnerable to this disease this is the FIRST time it has been documented to have killed wild antelopes.

Initial investigations suggest that even though over 14,000,000 livestock had been vaccinated against this lethal disease in 2016, the disease has likely spread from domestic animals to vulnerable wild animals through sharing grazing areas, which is especially common in winter when foraging ranges are fewer.

The unique Mongolian saiga

This population is a unique subspecies of saiga found only in one area of Mongolia. 

  • Total population estimated at only 10,000 animals in 2016.
  • 25% of the population has already been lost to this disease
  • Experts suggest as much as 80% of the population will be lost to this outbreak if we don't act NOW!

We have Every donation goes directly to the emergency appeal we have sent up and will help us find a solution to this crisis.

Visit our fundraising page here

Thank you for your support

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Four baby snow leopards in Mongolia

February 25 (Dear Kitty Blog) This January 2017 camera trap video shows a snow leopard with four babies in Mongolia. Four young snow leopards is very rare.

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Late Paleozoic low-angle southward-dipping thrust in the Züünharaa area, Mongolia: tectonic implications for the geological structures in the Sayan-Baikal and Hangai-Daur belts

by Gantumur Onon, Kazuhiro Tsukada

February 26 (International Journal of Earth Sciences)

Abstract

The Central Asian Orogenic Belt (CAOB) is key to understanding the Paleozoic–Mesozoic geodynamics of Eurasian continent. The geological structure of the Middle-to-Late Paleozoic rock units in the North Mongolia–West Transbaikal region is critical in revealing development process of CAOB. The region is largely comprised of rocks from the continental affinity and accretionary complexes which form the Sayan-Baikal (SB) and Hangai-Daur (HD) belts. This paper describes the lithology, stratigraphy, geological structure, and U-Pb age of the rocks in the Züünharaa area, which is located within the Haraa terrane of the HD belt in Mongolia. We identified a regional low-angle southward-dipping thrust in this area. The tectonic implication of the low-angle south-dipping thrust is discussed within the North Mongolia–West Transbaikal region. The study area exposes metamorphosed clastic rocks of the Haraa Group intruded by Ordovician–Silurian granitic rocks, Devonian felsic volcanic rocks of the Ulaan Öndör Formation, and Visean clastic rocks of the Örmögtei Formation in ascending order. The Haraa Group, granitic rock, and Ulaan Öndör Formation are cut by the low-angle southward-dipping thrust throughout this area. The rocks along the thrust are fractured to form cataclasite zone up to ~40 m wide. The thrust includes granite–rhyolite clast of ~450–420 Ma, and is unconformably covered by Visean Örmögtei Formation. Therefore, thrusting occurred after Ordovician–Silurian and before Visean. Late Paleozoic low-angle southward-dipping thrusts, similar to the present study, are widely distributed in the Haraa terrane of the Hangai-Daur belt and in terranes of the Sayan-Baikal belt. Whereas, the contemporaneous southeast-verging composite folds and northward-dipping thrusts are developed in the accretionary complexes, which are exposed at south of the Haraa terrane. These contrasting structures suggest a couple of "landward-verging" and "oceanward-verging" structures and may correspond to the "doubly vergent asymmetric structure" of Alpine-type compressional orogen.

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Sports

Mongolian judokas triumph at Dusseldorf Grand Prix

Ulaanbaatar, February 26 (MONTSAME) A team of Mongolian judo athletes won each of gold, silver and bronze medals from the "Dusseldorf Grand Prix-2017", which was organized by the International Judo Federation on February 24-26 in Germany. 

A judoka G.Boldbaatar, with a title of Honored Sportsman of Mongolia gained a gold medal in 60kg category and Olympic silver medalist and Honored Sportswoman of Mongolia D.Sumiya secured a silver medal in 57 kg category. In addition, Honored Sportsman of Mongolia B.Amartuvshin took a bronze medal from the competition.

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Ch.Sanjaadamba wins Lunar New Year wrestling tournament

Ulaanbaatar, February 27 (MONTSAME) Ch.Sanjaadamba (with a state title of giant) triumphed over 256 wrestlers came from all aimags of Mongolia in the traditional wrestling championship on the occasion of the "Red Fire Rooster" Lunar New Year, with wrestler O.Khangai (with title of Lion) came in second place. The wrestling championship was held yesterday, on February 26, the Lunar New Year's Eve at the National Wrestling Palace in Ulaanbaatar.

It was Sanjaadamba's third victory in the wrestling championship of Lunar New Year. His first win was in 2010 when he had 'Lion of Aimag' title and his second was in 2015 with 'Elephant of State' title.

As for O.Khangai, it's his second time as a runner-upper in the Lunar New Year championship. His first one was back in 2014 against D.Ragchaa (with a state title Garuda).

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Swimmer Sh.Davaadorj preps for 2022 Winter Olympics

February 24 (UB Post) Around 200 people competed in the State Swimming Championship of Mongolia last year. Half of these swimmers were teenagers between the ages of 14 and 16. These teenagers have a great potential in becoming regional and world champions but they don't have good coaches, says Sports Master Sh.Davaadorj, the only winter swimmer in Mongolia.

"Enhancing the skills of coaches can boost development of swimming and even winter swimming. Making the public healthier and providing accurate information is the key to developing this sport. People think that swimming in pools is healthy. Well, winter swimming requires much more patience, endurance and discipline. However, those interested in becoming winter swimmers need to learn how to withstand cold waters and what food to eat," Sh.Davaadorj noted.

48-year-old Sh.Davaadorj will participate in the 13th Latvian Winter Swimming Championships (LWSC) to be held on February 25 in Jurmala, Latvia. He shared about his training for the championships, winter swimming and future plans in the interview below.

Can you tell us about LWSC?

LWSC will take place on February 25 in Jurmala, Latvia. The eighth Winter Swimming Festival Pirita Open will begin on March 4 in Tallinn, Estonia. These two are the last scheduled competitions of the International Winter Swimming Association (IWSA) for 2016 to 2017. I plan to compete in both competitions. I will leave for Estonia right after LWSC.

 Which events will you participate in?

I will enter three events at LWSC: 25-meter breaststroke, 50-meter dolphin kick (butterfly stroke), and 50-meter freestyle swim events. In Estonia, I will participate in the 25-meter butterfly stroke and freestyle events. It's required to register a month in advance to enter the championship.

 Do you have a coach?

No. I learned everything related to training and diet through the internet. My profession helped a lot. I graduated as an electrician in Russia in 1988. In Mongolia, I graduated from both the National Institute of Physical Education and the School of Law of the National University of Mongolia. Afterwards, I studied international security at the Novosibirsk State University. All three of these institutes are related to security and legal system, and two of them are related to food and anatomy. Hence, I know when to eat what for recovering lost energy.

 What's your training routine? Is it true that you train in Khuvsgul Lake?

Yes. I organized a workshop about swimming in cold water and rescue operation last year in June as requested by the Maritime Administration of the Ministry of Roads and Transportation. During my stay there, I trained in Khuvsgul Lake. The water temperature dropped from 16 degrees to four degrees. I used to work out for around an hour and constantly tried to make myself comfortable in cold water back then. I first started going into a bathtub filled with cold water. You start getting used to it after a while. Then, I started going into bathtubs half-filled with ice. Like so, I trained every day.

You can't become a winter swimmer just by becoming used to cold water. It's essential that you manage your diet. For example, I swim five to eight kilometers per training session on average, meaning I burn around 6,000 calories. I need protein and vitamins to recover lost energy. Even if you eat well and swim regularly, you need to improve your strength to improve your speed. It's important to focus on all of these things or your rivals will beat you.

Coming in fifth or sixth place means I deceived myself and neglected my training. I must work hard to win a medal. I participated in eight swimming competitions in the last year-and-a-half. Five of them were international competitions. Out of 31 medals I won, 24 were gold.

 Is winter swimming popular in Mongolia?

Many Mongolians train in swimming, but I'm the only one who does winter swimming. Young people try it out but never decide to continue doing it. Winter swimming requires immense amount of patience, endurance and discipline. Simply put, the water temperature of pools is usually 28 degrees, tap water is around 12 to 16 degrees, and kharz is eight degrees Celsius. Most people can't stay in water at -2 degrees Celsius for more than five minutes. They'll die immediately.

Yet, winter swimming competitions are held in -2 or -4 degrees Celsius waters. It's an extreme sport. It requires significant training and endurance. Mongolia has become the 21st member of the International Winter Swimming Association (IWSA). I sent the request to join the association in 2016. It took a year for them to let us join because they needed to discuss it with all member states. Five people make up the IWSA board of directors. The president is a Filipino and the deputy is a Latvian-English person. There are Russian and German board members too.

 How long have you been training in winter swimming?

I've been training in winter swimming for the last two years. I used to do bodybuilding as well as swimming. I liked water sports since I was a kid. I first started swimming when I was 13. I came first in the 1986 State Swimming Championships. I didn't swim much while studying in Russia, though. At the time, I stopped entering swimming competitions and focused on bodybuilding. I participated in the Mister Mongolia bodybuilding competition five times and won three gold and one silver medals. I earned the Master of Sports title. I went back to swimming 28 years later in 2014.

 Do you plan to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics?

Yes, because the maximum age limit for winter swimming is 104. I'm only 48 now. I'm still young. I'm at my peak swimming age. I've been swimming for 34 years and doing bodybuilding for 28 years. I'm able to continue swimming because I never stopped doing sports.

I used to train with a lot of people in the past, but they all stopped doing sports and got bellies. It's the same everywhere in the world. People are deciding to stop swimming when they become a little bit older. I competed against 86 swimmers from 16 countries in the butterfly stroke event of a Chinese competition last year. Still, I got in first place. This is thanks to constant training. I left my job to pursue this life and so that I can reach the top.

I used to teach swimming in Bayangol District. I stopped coaching and became an athlete. Without quitting my job, I can't succeed. I could work while training but my records would be only good for international events. I was able to get medals from World Swimming Cups and Championships because I quit my job and dedicated my entire life to training.

My next goals is the 2022 Winter Olympics. The timing is perfect. There's still five years until the 2022. I'll have plenty of time to challenge myself and improve. By 2022, I'll only be 52 or 53. It's no problem.

 What do you plan to do in the near-future?

I'm trying to schedule one of IWSA's World Championships in Mongolia between 2018 and 2019. There are six major World Winter Swimming Championships. I'm discussing to organize one of them in Khuvsgul Lake. It would be economically beneficial to host it here since winter swimming enthusiasts from every corner of the world would come to see it. This would open up opportunities to develop winter tourism and boost economic growth.

Tourists come to Mongolia mostly in summer. The number of tourists drastically fall in winter. Hosting a winter swimming competition in Mongolia would not only flourish winter tourism but also make more young people interested in the sport.

Something similar to an ice festival is held in Khuvsgul Province. I hope to organize the World Winter Swimming Championship before or after the festival because I think it would be better to have something else sports fans can watch besides the competition.

 How did foreigners react when you took part in your first international competition?

They looked down on the skills of Mongolian swimmers. They didn't even know Mongolia existed. In response to their insults, I told them that Mongolians could swim too and to watch me. Ultimately, I came in first place. After I won, people started to open up and realized that Mongolia has good swimmers.

 Which swimming styles are you most confident in?

The butterfly stroke is my forte. The second competition I participated in was the World Swimming Cup held in China. The sixth Scandinavian Winter Swimming Championships took place from February 10 to 12 in Sweden. I didn't enter it because, first of all, I wanted work on the mistakes I made at the competition in China. Secondly, I had some financial problems. Members of our Mongolian Winter Swimming Association (MWSA) are independent athletes so it's financially difficult. I also don't like to participate in competitions all the time since I have my own family and life. Our association covered all my expenses for entering the competition in China.

 Can you tell us about MWSA? What's MWSA's plan for developing winter swimming in Mongolia?

N.Ider is the president of MWSA. Yu.Sodbileg and B.Bulgan are board members. We have one athlete – me. We made several plans. For example, we plan to compete with a team at the 2022 Winter Olympics. It's mandatory to enter the Winter Olympics with a team so we're trying to recruit three more people and train them well. We need two women and another man as required by the Olympic rules. Our first goal is to participate in scheduled competitions of IWSA, and later in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

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Tough men from the steppe

From Mongolian lakes to Asian Winter Games

SAPPORO, Japan, February 24 (International Ice Hockey Federation) – Mongolia evened its record at 2-2 in the Asian Winter Games on Thursday with an impressive 7-6 victory over Hong Kong. While the result was nice, the players enjoyed the extra benefit of playing with a roof over their heads at Mikaho Gymnasium.

Putting together a respectable national team is no easy feat in Mongolia, where there are no indoor rinks. The players not only must have passion for the game, they also must be able to deal with the elements while training in the depths of winter.

Mongolia coach Arslan Mergen spoke after his team's victory about the challenge of organizing a squad and developing players in his country.

"We have just 20 open rinks," Mergen stated. "Mongolia is a very big country. All the conditions we are playing in outdoors, sometimes at -35° C, are different. To come here and play indoors it's a different feeling. If we want to move up to a different level, we definitely need to have an indoor building."

The fact that the team has to train outdoors also means that they are faced with an abbreviated training period each year.

"We can basically only practise from November until February. After that it melts out," noted Mergen.

"We normally only have one tournament a year outside of Mongolia and that is the Challenge Cup of Asia," he said. "Basically we are playing on the lakes and the rivers. We have a lack of hockey equipment in Mongolia. We have approximately 150-200 kids playing on the open-ice conditions. We have a lack of a lot of things, but we love hockey."

Mergen, who also doubles as a translator for the team, clearly is grateful for the opportunity to get his players some game action in traditional hockey conditions.

Mergen's unit is definitely showing progress. Currently 50th in the IIHF World Ranking, Mongolia put six goals on the board in the first period against Hong Kong and then held on for the win.

"This has been a great experience to have all these hockey teams from Asia," Mergen commented. "It's like 20 different countries. I want to thank the Japanese people for organizing this event."

Mergen said that what his charges lack in tools, they make up for in commitment.

"We don't have much infrastructure in Mongolia, so to get to this level it takes the players hearts and souls," he said. "It is a difficult process. When you play outdoors vs. indoors, the ice surface is different. I'm very happy that my players can switch from outdoors to indoors at this high level and beat Hong Kong or Singapore."

Mergen, who attended Hope International University in Anaheim, California, lived in the United States for eight years.

"I grew up in Mongolia, then my parents lived in Russia and that is where I learned my hockey skills," he stated. "I went to Luzhniki Hockey School. I developed there and then played hockey when I was going to school in the U.S."

Mongolia goalie Baatarkhuu Bazarvaani has been a member of the national team for 10 years. The 26-year-old works as driver when he is not playing.

"I'm very excited about playing in the Asian Winter Games," he said on Thursday. "I want to say thank you to all the people. It's been really nice here."

Forward Gerelt Ider, a 19-year-old student, is currently in his third year with the national squad.

"I am very happy that I fit into the national team," he commented. "I have been enjoying my time with my teammates in Sapporo."

Veteran defenceman Batgerel Zorigt, who admires NHL star Sidney Crosby, has been impressed with the level of opposition Mongolia has faced here.

"There are a lot of countries and they have brought really good teams," he said. "The only difference is that they practice 365 days and we only practice three-and-a-half months. I have a lot of respect for the other teams, they are very highly skilled."

Goalie Munkhbold Bayarsaikhan, a four-year member of the national team, has found himself on the end of some high-velocity shots from opponents in the tournament.

"The other teams shoot the puck very strongly," he noted. "The team is very happy we won this game."

Playing the Asian Winter Games in February opposed to the spring dates for the Challenge Cup of Asia suits the Mongolians. After a tight 5-4 loss to Thailand they blanked Singapore 8-0, lost to the United Arab Emirates 6-3 and beat Hong Kong 8-6. Tomorrow they will play their last game in the men's Division I tournament against Chinese Taipei.

Thailand is currently leading the round-robin competition with 11 points before the last day with Chinese Taipei with 9 points being the only other team in the race for tournament win.

Click here for scores from the four ice hockey tournaments at the 2017 Asian Winter Games.

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Speaker M.Enkhbold welcomes distinguished horse trainers

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) The horse trainers, officially awarded state titles by the presidential decree, was welcomed at the State House by Chairman of the State Great Khural M.Enkhbold on Thursday.

This year, the state titles for horse-trainers were conferred to 23 best horse trainers. First time in the history, brothers and father and son have been awarded the titles under one decree.

As for the distinguished horse trainer from Uvurkhangai province, Mr B.Otgonnasan, the year 2017 was full of success for he was awarded both state titles for best horse-trainer and the "Champion Herder".

After meeting with the horse-trainers, Speaker M.Enkhbold handed prizes to the most successful horse breeding and training teams and jockeys.

Prizes in the name of the Equestrian Sports and Trainers' Federation were granted to 29 children-jockeys.

Speaker of Mongolian Parliament M.Enkhbold is also the head of the Equestrian Sports and Trainers' Federation of Mongolia. 

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President awards state titles to horse trainers

February 24 (UB Post) President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj bestowed state titles to respected horse trainers on February 23 at the State Palace.

Horse trainer from Dornod Province O.Batbileg, T.Battsooj of Khovd Province, T.Gantumur of Govi-Altai Province, S.Luvsanbaldan of Tuv Province, and B.Otgonnasan of Uvurkhangai Province were awarded the State Principal Horse Trainer title.

The State Leading Horse Trainer title went to B.Badraa of Umnugovi Province, L.Batmunkh and Ts.Gantumur of Govi-Altai Province, T.Boldbaatar of Khuvsgul Province, T.Galbadrakh of Zavkhan Province, T.Ikhbayar of Tuv Province, and U.Purevbaatar of Arkhangai Province.

Horse trainer of Bayangol District B.Baasanbazar; O.Batbold, S.Kherlen and B.Sukhbaatar of Tuv Province; G.Bayartsogt of Orkhon Province; G.Buyantogtokh of Bagakhangai District; N.Zorigt of Govi-Altai Province; B.Lkhagva-Ochir and S.Munkhbat of Dundgovi Province; P.Sergelen of Uvurkhangai Province; and Yu.Tugsjargal of Uvs Province received the State Honored Horse Trainer title.

After awarding state titles to horse trainers, President Ts.Elbegdorj said, "Congratulations to all. The Year of the Monkey is about to end and the Year of the Rooster is coming. I want to wish long-lasting happiness to all of you who protect the most important nomadic heritage of Mongolia – horses – and enrich the culture of Mongolian horse training."

"From ancient times, Mongolians always rode with their horses. The horse is an inspirational animal for nomadic Mongolians. That's why the horse is inscribed in the state coat of arms. Every historic success of Mongolia is related to horses," he added.

The President said, "Horse trainers and herders are the people who have inherited the culture of horse breeding and training. The state values your contributions in traditional horse racing. So I present state titles to you. I also want to congratulate child jockeys and your families. I hope you will spread the horse culture and entertain Mongolians with powerful horses for many years to come. Have a festive Tsagaan Sar!"

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Child jockeys shouldn't race in winter horse races

February 23 (UB Post) -Horse racing in winter and spring puts child jockeys in danger-

A group of children's rights NGOs and associations have joined hands to stop child jockeys from taking part in spring and winter horse races, raising their concerns at a press conference on February 20.

During the conference, representatives stressed that due to the very cold weather conditions of Mongolia, it is not safe for child jockeys, who can be as young as seven years old, to take part in winter races.

The NGOs said that although Ministry of Labor issued an order on February 8, 2016 to ban all types of horse racing which uses child jockeys between November 1 and May 1 each year, the order hasn't been implemented in reality. The order also banned the involvement of children in any tasks related to training or breeding horses outside.

There is a rumor that the Dunjingarav horse race will be organized in March, which violates the ministry's order.

Head of the organizing committee of Dunjin-garav Ya.Boldbaatar said, "Horse enthusiasts like to watch Dunjingarav. We have a long lasting tradition to organize this horse race. We will organize it in the beginning of March. The exact date hasn't been decided yet. We will announce the date soon."

Representatives from the National Network for Eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labor, National Network for Child Protection, Institute of Training and Research for Child Rights, National Civil Society Coalition, ECPAT Mongolia Network, Save the Children, and World Vision attended the press conference.

They noted that racing in early Spring means that child jockeys are training in extreme winter temperatures, greatly increasing their risk of accidents and injuries, and exposures to dangers, jeopardizing children's well-being and raising education-related issues.

Due to prolonged races and training, child jockeys can also miss out on important schoolwork, meaning they get left behind in lessons.

The NGOs also say that races organized during the winter and spring are not traditional, unlike the races which take place as part of the Naadam Festival in the summer, and are organized for commercial gain. Because of this, they say adults should take part as jockeys rather than children.

Child jockeys are at greatest risk of being hurt when horses race in the extremely cold weather and at their highest speed, they underlined.

According to statistics, over 1,500 child jockeys were injured during training and races in the last five years, many children became disabled for life as a result of these races, and more than 10 lost their life during a race.

"Horse racing is part of the cultural heritage of Mongolia, but horse racing in winter and spring has never been part of the traditional Mongolian culture," children's rights activists said.

They also added, "We reviewed 381 files related to horse racing which is being kept in the General Archival Authority. From 1803 to 1920, the Naadam Festival was celebrated between May and August. Horse races also took place from May to August. There were no horse races in winter."

They urged that using child jockeys during winter and spring should be viewed as a dangerous form of child labor.

"It puts their lives and health in danger, and it is a serious breach of their rights as children," said a children's rights NGO spokesperson.

They appealed to the government, and city and provincial authorities to continue to ban winter and spring horse races involving child jockeys.

They also noted that the notion that protective gear and warmer clothes can ensure safety is wrong. "Most people think child jockeys will be safe if they wear protective gear. This is a false notion," they added.

During the press conference, head of the National Network for Child Protection P.Tseveen spoke to reporters about the use of child jockeys in winter races.

It isn't 100 percent clear that the Dunjingarav horse race will be held in March. Did you meet the Federation of Mongolian Horse Racing Sport and Trainers?

The Federation of Mongolian Horse Training Sport and Trainers will organize Dunjingarav this March. I tried to meet them but they refused. I hope they will get back to us. We didn't contradict or ban a traditional sport of Mongolia. We are just protecting the rights of child jockeys, and asking them to not allow children to participate in winter and spring races.People have to understand this.

What would you do if Dunjingarav is to be organized?

Head of the Mongolian People's Party M.Enkhbold is the president of the Federation of Mongolian Horse Training Sport and Trainers and Minister of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry P.Sergelen is the secretary-general. So I hope they will become a role model to other MPs and make the right decision.

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School Rules for Mongolia's Ambitious YOG Star

Cross country skier Ochirsukh Adiyabaatar is halfway through a self-imposed, semi-sabbatical from the sport he loves. Guided by his mother, the 18-year-old has agreed to focus on his studies before returning to the slopes with a vengeance next year and attempting to qualify for the Olympic Games.

February 24 (IOC) One year on from representing his country at the Youth Olympic Games, Ochirsukh Adiyabaatar is negotiating the tricky but crucial balance between his studies and his sport. It is a factor no doubt familiar to many of the 1,067 athletes who competed in Lillehammer.

"Since the YOG my mother wants me to focus on my studies. She thinks it is very important for my future," said cross country skier Adiyabaatar, who had a best finish of 41st in the 10km event at the YOG. "So for this year I am taking a year off from training and focusing on my studies."

The 18-year-old who has ambitions of one day competing at the Olympic Games, is showing a startlingly mature attitude to his sabbatical. "My mother is right. Even if I want to ski I have to think about my studies. If I continue with my career as an athlete and enter many competitions, after I am done what am I going to do with my life? You need education for applying for a job," he said. "She wants me to study well and then after I can ski all I like."

As a result, this season Adiyabaatar trains at the weekend and has only entered national Mongolian competitions. It is not harming his form too much, with a recent fifth place in a seniors' event prompting him to consider that he may even have improved.

Naturally however, he finds it hard to watch those YOG competitors who are on the slopes fulltime. "On Facebook they are like 'I just did 50km training and now I am ready for competition'. I look at them and get jealous," Adiyabaatar said. "I really want to race with them, I want to know how they improve. I want to know how good an athlete I am next to them. It makes me cringe. I really want to ski but right now I can't."

Adiyabaatar, who is aiming to be an electrical engineer once he has fulfilled his sporting ambitions, has recognised that he needs the academic focus this year in order to make his second career a reality. "To tell the truth, it is hard. When I was in high school I was mostly focusing on skiing and training and I totally forgot about my studies. And now I am trying to study I need my high school knowledge," he said.

Under the terms of the deal he has made with his mother, Adiyabaatar will join the majority of his nation's fellow cross country skiers in the capital Ulaanbaatar next year. He will then combine studying with intensive training.

While the teenager is occasionally concerned that he is being left behind, with his competitors' personal best times "getting better and better", Adiyabaatar is confident that he has plenty of room for improvement himself. "I believe I can be in the real Olympics.  I feel I can do better. I didn't reach my limit yet. Maybe after two or four years I can do better, maybe I can get quicker and compete more," he said. "I just need to wait until next year."

On occasion the Mongolian even remembers that there are some advantages to being part-time. "I am not on that diet anymore," he admitted, having caught plenty of attention in Lillehammer last year after revealing that he was on a strict, carrot-based vegetarian diet. "I am enjoying the moment and eating a lot of meat. Mongolian traditional food, it is full of meat," he laughed.

Other pleasures exist too. He likes to take his school friends out to the mountains and teach them to ski. And he also has a trove of special memories to draw upon. "From the moment I got there you meet a lot of athletes, participate in a lot of events. It is hard to choose only one memory. Racing was the best experience if I had to choose one. You had the (Youth) Olympic champion right there and I was racing with him and I know him now," Adiyabaatar said.

Not bad motivation, for when this student returns to the race track full-time. 

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Art & Entertainment

Morin Khuur-2016 festival winners announced

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) Best music of the 30th annual "Morin Khuur 2016" festival (horsehead fiddle) has announced their winners. "Tenger Ikh Tal" (Grand Plain of the Sky) received Grand Prix award for the Best song of 2016. 

The song was written by poet N.Bayanmunkh, composed by Sh.Ulziibayar and was sung by E.Ankhbayar, soloist of the State Opera and Ballet Academic Theater.

As for the contest, State Honored artist U.Dalantai's "Gegeen Nutag" (Holy Land) won the first place. It was written by Kh.Chilaajav and composed by T.Ser-Od.

While "Aavtai orchlon" (The World with a Father) song that was written by Ch.Nandintsetseg and composed by Sh.Sugartseren was awarded second place. Third place victory went to a song titled "Iim l saikhan" (Such a beauty) by B.Tsermaa and composed by B.Byambabayar .

Russian Buryat and Kalmykian, as well as Chinese Inner Mongolian artists were competed in this year's contest.

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Albacete International Circus Festival prizes go to a Mongolian circus troupe

February 24 (UB Post) A troupe from the Mongolian Circus Development Center, led by N.Erdene, won two prizes at the 10th Albacete International Circus Festival for their contortion performance.

The Albacete International Circus Festival took place in Albacete, Spain, from February 16 to 21. Over 80 circus artists from 14 countries took part in the annual festival.

The Mongolian contortion team included five artists and earned applause from the team of international judges. A team of five Mongolian contortionists performed "Snake" at the festival, earning the troupe two prizes.

The Albacete International Circus Festival has been taking place in Spain since 2008.

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Mongolian artists to take part in Oxford International Art Fair

February 24 (UB Post) A number of Mongolian artists will represent Mongolia at the fourth Oxford International Art Fair, which will be held in the U.K. from February 24 to 26.

Contemporary and traditional artwork by D.Batbileg, T.Otgonbayar, D.Tuvdendorj, Ch.Sendem, Kh.Elbegzaya, S.Altantsooj, O.Odgerel, M.Ochir-Erdene, and O.Molor-Od will be on view. The artists are based out of the U.K., Mongolia, and Poland.

The Embassy of Mongolia in the United Kingdom and Cultural Ambassador of Mongolia J.Unurmaa have been working together since 2015 for the inclusion of Mongolian artists in the Oxford International Art Fair. In 2015, a Mongolian artist won the Best Artist award among 150 participants.

Talented artists from over 30 countries display their artwork in this international art fair, which attracts over 6,000 visitors every year. A highlight of this year's fair will be an original artwork by the British contemporary artist Damien Hirst, part of the work on view from In Vogue Art Gallery.

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'The Eagle Huntress' soars with possibility

February 25 (National Catholic Reporter) In the 2002 New Zealand film "Whale Rider" (directed by Niki Caro), a 13-year-old Maori girl named Paikea disrupts an ancient tradition of progeniture — a system that pre-ordains the eldest son as first in the line of succession for leadership — to emerge as the new chief destined to breathe new life to her dying tribe.

Traipsing on a similar path, the 2016 U.K.-produced film "The Eagle Huntress" (directed by Otto Bell) follows the adventures of Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl from a nomadic Kazakh tribe in Mongolia, who overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to emerge victorious in a tournament that had been, for generations, the exclusive domain of men.

The parallels between the two films are striking, but having said that, there is a marked difference. "Whale Rider" is an earnest work of fiction based on a Maori cultural myth; "The Eagle Huntress" is a beautifully realized documentary, shot as cultural phenomena unfold.

Aisholpan Nurgaiv is a plucky schoolgirl with a sunny disposition to match her cherubic face. Because her homestead is located in the remote Mongolian Altai Mountains, she needs to live in a boarding school on weekdays with other girls her age. This all seems unspectacular until we get a glimpse of what she does in off-school days: She is undergoing serious training to qualify her for eagle hunting, the ancient practice of raising fledgling golden eagles to catch other animals for meat and fur. This means undergoing a physically and psychologically challenging regimen apparently designed for muscular, grown men.

The film takes us to each stage of the journey that Aisholpan must hurdle before she realizes her lofty dream. The starting point is, in and of itself, a perilous challenge. Her father, Agalai, harnesses his daughter with rope and lowers her on a steep cliff to an eagle's nest where she is to capture one of the eaglets. To be sure, witnessing Aisholpan as she struggles to snatch a large bird of prey from its nest while the mother eagle hovers in the background is a nail-biting experience; one can't help but root for the brave girl.

In the next scenes, we see how Aisholpan begins to bond with her eagle, a female like her. She learns how to use her arm as perch to some 15 pounds of avian muscle, how to set the bird to flight and teach it to respond to her call. Through sheer determination and discipline, the young girl and her winged partner are finally ready to compete against 70 men in the hunting tournament.

I anticipate that the art of eagle hunting might invite questions about the treatment of wildlife, to which I would suggest thinking in context: Understand that this is a 4,000-year-old tradition of an indigenous, nomadic culture of people who live off the land and keep a close relationship with nature. It would be unreasonable to mention their use of eagles in the same breath as the excesses and ecological degradation wrought by affluent consumerist cultures.

Notably, custom dictates that the eagles be set free after seven years when they have reached mating age. The continuation of the circle of life is celebrated with a meaningful ritual where the trainer offers an entire slaughtered sheep to the eagle, accompanied by a prayer of thanksgiving.

Watching "The Eagle Huntress" is virtually entering into another world. The audience is ushered into a liminal space, a threshold where past and present are interwoven. From start to finish, the stunning cinematography — painterly wide-angle shots and gravity-defying drone shots contrasted with closer, intimate shots — opens a portal into a lost horizon where resplendently garbed Eurasian nomads on horseback ride against the backdrop of a vast, frozen mountainscape.

 Simon Niblett, director of cinematography, achieved this creative feat with the help of just two other cinematographers; the three made a heroic effort to work within the limits of a shoestring budget and in bitingly cold conditions. The visual tour de force makes "The Eagle Huntress" worth the theater experience.

The film's human story is a fascinating study of culture as a site of creative tension. Getting a glimpse of Aisholpan's family life, we begin to understand where her strength and confidence are rooted. This family is a countercultural force in what appears to be a patriarchally oriented culture. As the narrative reels out, amusing cut-to-cut close-ups of cynical male community elders, each one a naysaying "talking head," punctuate the scenes of Aisholpan's sojourn. But the girl stands on solid footing; she finds support where it counts the most — her family. Leading her cheering squad are her father and grandfather, veteran eagle hunters both, who do not see her gender as an issue and who wholeheartedly believe that she is the one.

The pageantry and energy of the tournament proper is an exhilarating watch. One male competitor after another takes his turn in a series of challenges that are largely dependent on the rigor of one's training, not to mention the bond of trust between the hunter and the eagle partner. When Aisholpan is finally introduced, there is a noticeable sense of bemusement from the crowd. After all, she is small girl in a big man's world, and that is exactly how she looks. Aisholpan, not surprisingly, proves the cynics wrong.

That said, the tournament is the film's false climax. The true test of an eagle hunter is yet to come. Aisholpan needs to move beyond the artificially constructed context of an organized tournament into an actual fox hunting expedition. This means riding on horseback for days out in the untamed Altai Mountains, eagle perched on one arm, and exposed to punishing temperatures of minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. These are treacherous conditions for an adult hunter, let alone an inexperienced minor. And this is her eagle's maiden attempt at actual hunting, so there are no guarantees to success. But we have previously seen how Aisholpan's mojo works, how she can beat the odds and emerge triumphant.

Yes, we have previously seen the story of the unexpected heroine and its various re-appropriations in film. But I bet you have never seen a 13-year-old plucky Kazakh schoolgirl from Mongolia soar like a golden eagle before. This is your chance.

[Precious Blood Br. Antonio D. Sison is associate professor of systematic theology at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, and author of the book The Sacred Foodways of Film. "The Eagle Huntress" is available on video from Sony Pictures Classics.]

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The true story behind a fairytale

Insights into 'The Eagle Huntress' documentary

March 1 (Mongol Messenger) The story of a thirteen-year-old girl hunting with her eagle companion on her forearm might just be a fairytale for western people, but not for Mongolians.  Even a few tales were told among the natives that a young girl on a horse took down a wolf with her whip.  The story of a young girl named Nurgaiv Aisholpan's win over eighty adult men in a traditional eagle festival of the Kazak nomads in the western Mongolia recently caught the world's attention. 

The young girl became a world star after the picture of her on top of a canyon with an eagle on her forearm was taken during the festival and sent to major western media by Israeli photographer, Asher Svidenski.  Directed by Otto Bell, the documentary film on Aisholpan's life 'The Eagle Huntress' was released during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and has received many comments from both critics and viewers.  Even after traveling the world upon the film's release, Aisholpan's bashful kind-heart and modest smile never once wavered.

The little girl was even included in the '2016 Women Who Dare' list of Harper's Bazaar magazine, along with former nominee for the USD Presidential Election Hillary Clinton and famous actress Uma Thurman.  Rising tall on top of the mountain during winter with an 8kg eagle on her forehand, the girl is definitely 'daring'. 

As for her documentary film, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) reviewed and nominated the film as the 'Best Documentary Film' for the 70th British Academy Film Awards.  However, the Academy Awards or Oscars considered the film ineligible for nomination.  According to BBC's article "Is the Eagle Huntress really a documentary?"  A reviewer described the film as a "fairytale documentary".  Some viewers are saying the film was staged.  Although many audiences believe that the documentary is genuine, some factors doubt the rest.

Reason number One

Judging from the review that says "fairytale documentary", Aisholpan must feel like a fictional character to viewers.  Maybe the image of a young girl climbing up an edgy cliff and stealing a baby eagle may have felt like a hoax to westerners, but according to the BBC news post, Director Otto Bell said, "The scene where she takes the baby eagle out of the nest – people are always surprised to know that was in one single take.  I did it drawing on my experience in commercials.  As far as reconstructing and staging, what you see on the screen is what we got".

Civilization of settlers may find it difficult to understand Mongolian unique tradition, endurance of its people and their horses crossing rocky mountains on bare hooves.  However, this is the reality of Mongolian lifestyle. 

A young British actress Daisy Ridley narrated the documentary.  The story of Aisholpan is filled with exciting scenes.  Her father teaches the rosy-cheeked thirteen-year-old heroine how to hunt with an eagle.  Traditionally a male pursuit, the little girl shocks everyone every year by winning the annual eagle hunting contest that takes place in Bayan-Ulgii Aimag.  The news agencies around the world that reported this news surely know the story was genuine.

Reason number Two

Tim Robey, a journalist from 'Telegraph' newspaper says 'When we heard the announcement of the Golden Eagle festival on the Nurgaivs' home radio, and Aisholpan's immediate plea to enter the contest, it's a woefully unspontaneous scene - engineered storytelling in which she is essentially being made to act for us.  You feel sorry for her acting out some of these charades.'

First of all, understand that the film is a documentary.  The director can decide on what to show the audience after discussing the character.  Recording the entirety of the unique culture of Eagle Hunting, along with the actual process of the hunt and showing the tales of Altaic people would be a fairytale itself.  Only the main point of the film is what matters.  Famous Oscar-winning Italian Director Federico Fellini once said "Making a movie is a mathematical operation".

Reason number Three

Aisholpan never had to act, the film only showed her everyday life.  Hunting with an eagle, getting kissed by her dad, receiving blessings from her grandfather and riding on a horse, would ever doubted by a Mongolian because this is the lifestyle we were raised in.

But it is not the fault of foreign audiences to consider the film as 'fiction-alike' or 'staged'.  They were raised in a different lifestyle.  No one would ever imagine a young girl hunting with an eagle in the snow-capped Altai Mountains.  It must seem like fiction to them.

Mongolian history, the lives of herders, and even the way they treat nature and animals would seem like a 'fairytale'.  There's no blame here.  However, every single one of them is a truth.  Neither a frozen dress nor a unicorn ever flew across some golden canyons in the film.  Not a single notion of a 'fictional documentary' was displayed.  Only the part where the eagle being trained to hunt feels a bit deceiving but that too is a true story.

Also, critics reviewed the Kazakh elders and women participating in the eagle hunting competition as 'edited'.  The U.S historian Adrienne Mayor made a laughable claim that "Bell went searching for these naysayers in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan".  It is clear to Mongolians that the director went around knocking on elders' doors, and all openly voiced disapproval.  So he put them in the film.

Finally, the diligent critics have all seem to be given up.  Because Adrienne Mayor said "Her bravery and her feats in that eagle hunting contest are really amazing and inspiring.  That would have been enough in the film."

Surely, that is enough in the film.  Aisholpan Nurgaiv's sincere feeling towards her eagle, the hunting ability she earned for herself and the scenery where she's flying alongside her eagle on a horse isn't fiction.  It is a true story of our fairytale-like country.

The article first appeared in the Mongol Messenger's issue No.8-9 for February 24. 

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Travel

Events to be held during Tsagaan Sar 2017

February 26 (gogo.mn) Can`t decide what to do during Tsagaan Sar? We at GoGo Mongolia, offering you events to be held during Tsagaan Sar in Mongolia. 

This year the first day of Tsagaan Sar occurs on Feb 27th and the first three days of Tsagaan Sar (Feb 27-Mar 1) is non-working public holiday nationwide. 

So don't just hide at home during Tsagaan Sar – come out and celebrate this beautiful age-old celebration and experience the Mongol culture, hospitality and traditions with following events.

CELEBRATE TSAGAAN SAR WITH LOCALS

Mongolian Secret History camp is organising an annual event during the Tsagaan Sar to give expats and visitors alike the opportunity to experience this beautiful celebration just like locals. The event will be held on February 26-27th.  

For more info on the event program and tax, please click HERE

Or contact the organisers at: Phone: 976-11-70000450, 99043547, 99993200. 

THE FIRST SUNRISE TOUR OF THE LUNAR NEW YEAR

Genco Tour Bureau tourism centre invites you to take part in their Lunar New Year First Sunrise tour on February 27th (the First day of Tsagaan Sar) and whisper your wish to make come true. 

The tour will take place at the Chinggis Khan statue complex, Tsonjinboldog - about 1.5hr drive from Ulaanbaatar to the east. There will be a sunrise ceremony, breakfast, calligraphy and traditional music performance.

For more info, please click HERE

WATCH THE EAGLE HUNTRESS - A STORY OF 13-YEAR-OLD EAGLE HUNTER GIRL

Adventure Temple offers you a cozy evening with a good film "The Eagle Huntress" directed by Otto Bell on Mar 3rd. 

The documentary nominated for BAFTA Film award 2017, tells a story of 13-year-old Aisholpan who trains to become the first female in twelve generations of her Kazakh family. 

For more info, please click HERE or contact at 7710 8002. 

NOMAD EVENT

Mongolian Photographer`s Association is organizing Nomad event on March 4th at Ugtaaltsaidam soum, Tuv aimag which locates 140 km away from Ulaanbaatar city.

The event enables you to visit herder family, attend Nomad and Horseman competition, eat lunch outside near fire and take photos. Also horse riding is available for 20,000 MNT. 

Event tax is 50,000 MNT (including transportation, lunch, dinner and other performances). 

For more info, please click HERE

"BLUE PEARL" INTERNATIONAL ICE FESTIVAL 2017

Blue Pearl International Ice Festival 2017 will take place at Khatgal village, the southern shore of lake Khuvsgul on Mar 3-4th or the fifth and sixth day of Tsagaan Sar, enabling you to experience Tsagaan Sar celebration visiting a nomad family. 

The event offers traditional horse sled races, reindeer races, skating competitions, and shamanic rituals. Also, there will be an Ice Sculpture Competition – artists will create a winter fairyland on the 2-3m thick, crystal clear ice of the Lake Huvsgul, and various performances by the locals and artists of the local theatre.

For more info, please click HERE

DUNJINGARAV 2017 – REGIONAL SPRING HORSE RACES

The Federation of Mongolian Horse Racing Sport and Trainers is organizing the annual regional spring horse races "Dunjingarav 2017" on Mar 5th. 

The horse races will feature both Mongolian breed and mixed breed horses during the 2 day event at Argalant soum, Tuv aimag. 

It's an event not to be missed as one can experience the Mongolian horse culture in depth and take a little break in the steppes (free of charge).

EAGLE FESTIVAL AT CHINGGISIIN KHUREE 2017

Just after the Tsagaan Sar celebration, the Eagle Festival is announced to be held on Mar 5th, 2017 at the Chinggisiin Khuree tourism camp, located in the Bogd Khan National Park. 

Real eagle hunters with their mighty Eagles will come all the way from Bayan-Ulgii to compete including the famous Aisholpan – actress of "The Eagle Huntress" (2016) documentary directed by Otto Bell. 

It is the event for those who can't travel over 1300 km to the westernmost Mongolia to see the Eagle Festivals that take place in September (Altai Eagle Festival) and October (Golden Eagle Festival) in Bayan-Ulgii province. 

For more info, please click HERE

CAMEL FESTIVAL 2017

The date of the Camel Festival 2017 is 6-7 March and the event will take place in Bulgan soum of Umnugobi aimag. 

It's an entertaining 2-days of event that features various contests related to Mongolian camel culture and lots of local music and dances. Nomads from far and near wear their best deels, the traditional costume of Mongolia and ride their best camels to attend the festival as it's their pride and a big celebration for them. 

For more info, please click HERE

HAPPY TSAGAAN SAR!

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Ice and Snow Festival 2017, Khuvsgul Lake, March 3-4

February 24 (UB Post) The Ice and Snow Festival 2017 will be held on March 3 and 4 at Khuvsgul Lake. Residents of Khuvsgul Province celebrate the Ice and Snow Festival every March.

The festival involves various activities and competitions, including ice sumo, ger building with ice, ice skating, and sleigh rides.

This two-day event is also offering a rare display of shaman ceremony and the Tsaatan people's way of life.

Details

Where: Khuvsgul Lake

When: March 3 and 4

More Information: 70120011

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Travel Buddies: Mongolia Nomads Winter Festival Tour – 2017

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  •  Witness Mongolia winter
  •  Take a part of winter festivals
  •  Travel to the Gobi & Khovsgol lake
  •  Meet Eagle hunters

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The Best Mongolia Winter Tour – The nomads' winter festival offers a unique opportunity to visit Mongolia in one of the most special times; end of the long winter, when the thaw comes. Mongolians celebrate the arrival of spring organising three important festivals in the first days of March including "Ice Festival & Skating Event" in Khuvsgul Lake in the Northern Mongolia, "Eagle festival" near in Ulaanbaatar city and "Camel festival" in Southgobi province. These festivities are well-known to locals and best events for Mongolia winter tour.

ICE FESTIVAL 

EAGLE FESTIVAL

CAMEL FESTIVAL

ACTIVITIES –  Festival and Mongolia winter tour

ACTIVITY LEVEL –  Leisurely

DURATION / DISTANCE –  8 days
PLACES VISITED –  Khovsgol lake /Gobi desert

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A photographer's epic road trip from Scotland to Mongolia: Boys, bikes and bucket hats

It took 10,000 miles, 19 countries, 40 rolls of film, three deserts, two seas and a vintage car – but James Parker has pulled together a nuanced photo project around ideas of masculinity.

March 1 (Huck Magazine) Last summer, James Parker and two friends set out on the trip of a lifetime: taking a 1972 Morris Minor from Edinburgh, Scotland to the outer reaches of Russia.

Given that the vintage car rolls along at an average speed of 18 miles per hour, winding through 19 countries would take a while. Fifty-three days, to be precise.

"I wanted an adventure: to meet new people and experience new cultures," says James, a 25-year-old from Barnsley in Yorkshire.

He inherited his first bits of camera equipment from his grandfather, initially using it as an excuse to get into music and sport events for free, before studying photography at both Edinburgh Napier and Ryerson University in Toronto.

"This was the first time I had been 'travelling' – if you can call it that – and it turns out that it's certainly more challenging than relaxing. Driving 10 hours a day for that long really affects you."

The trip was all in the name of charity – the trio successfully raised funds for two community programmes in Barnsley that help the homeless and people with mobility issues – but James brought along 40 rolls of film to see if a photography project would emerge from their adventures. And one did.

Between Romania and Mongolia, James found himself capturing enough snapshots of masculinity that a pattern emerged: there were always boys, bikes and bucket hats.

"Over time I realised that I was focusing on situations that I recognised myself in," he says. "The project has this air of growing up, boyhood, vulnerability and finding your way."

The friends would camp under the stars in the Gobi desert, get lost in Istanbul during an attempted coup and ride a hot air balloon over Cappadocia at sunrise.

Any time they stopped for a rest, people would spring out of nowhere, wielding pots of coffee and a determined curiosity to see what was under the car's hood.

"The lowest points came when we struggled to find food and fuel; police would constantly stop us. Our lowest bribe was a couple of smokes and a handshake. It wasn't easy and we had a few arguments and break downs along the way, but never a punctured tyre."

After developing film from the trip – which continues to be edited – James sifted through images of mountain trails leading nowhere, barren desert landscapes and random roadside encounters. But the theme of masculinity kept emerging, just not quite in the way he anticipated.

"I had questioned if gender assumptions and behaviours changed from the West to East before the journey," he says.

"But from those I met I recognised common themes and feelings: to love, to share and help others, which we rarely get to see [in the West].

"Obviously men don't have to drive, lift, herd, secure, plant and build… but those I met chose to and that's okay too."

Check out James Parker's photography portfolio or follow him onInstagram.

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A traveller's top 10 cities to visit: #6 Ulaanbaatar

February 25 (Caboolture News) OBVIOUSLY you enjoy some places more than others when travelling. Some locations stick in your memory for their fun, beauty, people, mystery, adventure, history, culture, or just for the time in your life that this place occupied. Over the past five years I have travelled to 30 countries, and spent time exploring, meeting locals, viewing sights, relaxing, and learning about life and the world. Here are my top 10 places that linger in my memory as special.

#6: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

For a capital tucked away on the Mongolian steppe, Ulaanbaatar is a booming town of surprising architecture and high fashion. After traversing hours of grassy, undulating hills or desert depending on where you have come from, Ulaanbaatar provides as much civilisation as anyone could need. The centre of town is host to glassy skyscrapers and large, traffic-clogged avenues, and, a shock to the unprepared, young Mongolians parade around in clothes fit for a European catwalk. Mongolia has experienced a massive GDP rise from Gobi Desert mining in the past few years, and new apartments and roads are springing up around town.

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Why You Should Travel to Mongolia (or, Why My Solo Trip to Mongolia Was Everything)

February 27 (Oneika the Traveller) If travel to Mongolia isn't already on your radar it should be. Here's why, plus my recommendations for things to do and see in Mongolia on a short trip.

Travelling Mongolia isn't really on the average tourist's radar, but since I was living in Hong Kong (which isn't super close by but is at least in the same hemisphere) planning a visit there was always in the back of my mind.

However, after nearly five years in HK and travels to nearly every other country in the region, I still hadn't made it to Mongolia.

Why? Turns out that going to Mongolia, even from HK, isn't particularly cheap nor easy.  And as someone who mostly plans their trips around cost and convenience, this meant a visit to Mongolia kept getting put on the backburner, while I flitted around to places like JapanThailand, and Myanmar. *cue the world's smallest violin*

But last year, as my move back to The Big Apple loomed, I decided to bite the bullet, throw down the cash, and make the time (and energy) for a recon trip. I went to Mongolia for 5 days in June (yet froze my buns off?!) and rocked the adventure solo dolo (thinking about travelling alone? Peep my tips for solo travel here).

And you know what? It was everything.

But before I get into what I did, here are a few quick facts about Mongolia for you geography buffs out there.

Facts and figures (aka why you should go to Mongolia in the first place)

-Mongolia is one of the most sparsely populated nations in the world, with only 4.3 people per square mile.
-Mongolia is known as the "Land of Blue Sky" because it has 260 days of sun a year.
-There are 13 times more horses than humans in the country, and sheep outnumber humans 35 to 1.

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Silk Road Treasure Tours: Hidden Treasures of Nomadic Mongolia

Duration of this Trip 11 days Days Priced From $3,530 per person

Endless steppe, sky and vast desert horizons bordered by remote, pristine mountain ranges have lured outdoor adventurers to Mongolia for centuries. The land of Chinggis and Kublai Khan, the Mongolian Empire once extended as far east as Korea, south to Vietnam, and west to Hungary. Formerly inaccessible to the outside world, travelers are only recently discovering the gifts that this amazing country of rosy-cheeked smiles has to offer: unparalleled star gazing, horseback and camel riding, fossil hunting, and overnights in traditional gers. Discover the beauty of Mongolia for yourself!

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Shuren Travel: Fishing in Mongolia Travel Programs

Fishing 7 days tour to Orkhon River 

Travel to Karakorum, the remains of the capital city of historically the largest land empire the world has ever known. Go fishing at the nearby Orkhon River, which combines many of the largest tributaries originating from the majestic Khangai and Khentii Mountains. The river is home to 9 species of fish, including the Siberian grayling and the lenok.

Fishing 7 days tour to Kherlen River 

A fisherman's dream-come-true! Travel to one of the three most famous, and largest rivers in the nation. Go fishing for spinners, ruff fish, taimen and many others while enjoying the rich wildlife in the area. On your way back, spend a night at our Elstei Ger camp and enjoy the relaxing ambience amidst the beautiful landscape. Finish the trip off with a full day sightseeing in the capital city.

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Ulaanbaatar 14251, Mongolia
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