Kazakhstan president Tokayev boosts ties with Russia while pushing aside his strongman predecessor
Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has held talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss bilateral cooperation as the oil-rich country recovers from last month’s unrest.
Putin said Tokayev’s response to the unrest, Russian support and the assistance of the Collective Security Treaty Organization rapidly restored peace in Kazakhstan.
Tokayev, 68, expressed gratitude for the Russian deployment of “a peacekeeping contingent.”
Former Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev, 81, stepped down as president in 2019 but retained much of his power and had a veto over domestic and foreign policy.
When protests spread across Kazakhstan in January, a statue of Nazarbayev in the town of Taldykorgan was toppled and hung by a noose outside the mayor’s office.
Statues of Nazarbayev have not been repaired. In Nazarbayev Avenue in the former capital, Almaty, a street sign removed by protesters has not been replaced. It used to be a criminal offence to insult Nazarbayev’s “honour and dignity”.
Demonstrators in Almaty demanded an end to Nazarbayev’s powers and chants about the “old man” were heard across the former Soviet state.
Tokayev blamed “foreign terrorists”, gave the security forces “shoot-to-kill” orders and invited Russian troops to help restore order. It is unclear what price Putin will extract for the deployment.
Putin told the media in Moscow this week: “Without exaggeration, Kazakhstan fell victim to some international groups that used the difficult situation in the country to their benefit.”
Putin is unlikely to welcome political reforms in Kazakhstan in the same way as he has opposed democracy arriving in Ukraine.
The protests ended Nazarbayev’s influence as he was sacked as the security council chief. Intelligence chief Karim Massimov, a Nazarbayev ally, was dismissed and charged with treason.
Nazarbayev eventually appeared in a brief broadcast, where he called himself a pensioner and that he was taking a rest in what was seen as a resignation speech.
Tokayev soon after removed Nazarbayev’s three sons-in-law from key chamber of commerce and oil and gas jobs.
Nazarbayev’s eldest daughter, Dariga, was removed from the political council. She is still a parliamentarian but has not been seen in the chamber since January’s protests.
Analyst Dimash Alzhanov said: “Nazarbayev and his family could not remain in power, otherwise it will not be possible to stabilise the situation after the protests. But the nature of the regime has not changed.”
It is unknown how many protesters were killed in Kazakhstan last month. Picture credit: YouTube