Bordered by Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan, the 1,000-kilometre-long Caspian is the world’s largest inland body of water. It is home to a range of native species — from the seals to Caspian turtles and the famed beluga sturgeon — and also to vast energy reserves, estimated at 50 billion barrels of oil. But pollution from the extraction of that oil and gas, along with declining water-levels due to climate change, has left many species under threat and the future of the sea itself at risk.
Speaking at the Caspian port of Kuryk, Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev hails a newly modernised Caspian Sea port which the ex-Soviet country hopes will link up to China’s massive “Belt and Road” infrastructure project.
Azerbaijanis vote in a snap presidential election boycotted by the main opposition parties and set to extend the autocratic rule of President Ilham Aliyev. An Aliyev victory is widely seen as a foregone conclusion with the Caspian state’s downtrodden opposition unable to mount a serious challenge to his authoritarian rule.