West must stand up to Russia in Kazakhstan, opposition leader says

  • West must act against Kazakhstan, opposition leader says
  • China will stay on the side – says Ablyazov
  • Putin seeks to create a new USSR – says Ablyazov
  • West does not fund protests – says Ablyazov

LONDON, Jan. 7 (Reuters) – The West must remove Kazakhstan from Moscow’s orbit, otherwise Russian President Vladimir Putin will drag the Central Asian state into “a structure like the Soviet Union,” he told Reuters a former minister who is now leader of the Kazakh opposition. .

Protests that began in response to rising fuel prices turned this week into a broad movement against Nursultan Nazarbayev, who resigned the presidency in 2019 after decades in power but remained the real power in Kazakhstan.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Nazarbayev’s hand-picked successor, called on Russian ally forces as part of a Moscow-led alliance known as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO ). Read more

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Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former banker and government minister who heads an opposition movement called Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, said the West must join in the fray.

“Otherwise, Kazakhstan will turn into Belarus and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin will methodically impose his program – the recreation of a structure like the Soviet Union,” Ablyazov told Reuters in Russian from Paris. “The West should wrest Kazakhstan from Russia.”

“Russia has already entered, has sent troops. The CSTO is Russia. It is an occupation by Russia,” he declared.

He did not say how the West should remove Kazakhstan from Russia’s orbit, or whether it should use force.

Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic, is squeezed between Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

China would stay away in Kazakhstan and just watch events, Ablyazov said.

A vehicle that was set on fire during protests sparked by rising fuel prices is seen on a road in Almaty, Kazakhstan, January 6, 2022. REUTERS / Pavel Mikheyev

Sentenced in absentia in Kazakhstan for fraud, embezzlement and organization of murder, Ablyazov, 58, lives in France where he obtained refugee status. He dismissed the charges against him in Russia and Kazakhstan as politically motivated.

He was Minister of Energy in the 1990s under Nazarbayev, but relations deteriorated. Kazakh authorities claim that Ablyazov instigated and funded protests in 2016 that forced Nazarbayev to delay unpopular land tenure reforms.


Ablyazov presented Nazarbayev, who was the leader of the Kazakh Communist Party before becoming president, as a dictator who had led the Kazakh people into a geopolitical stalemate while also enriching a venal elite.

“Nazarbayev – he is not in the country at the moment – but that does not mean anything because he has the telephone and the communications – and everyone in power, including Tokayev, will do as he orders”, a he said, describing Tokayev as “the furniture of the former president”. “.

“I consider myself to be the leader of the opposition,” Ablyazov said. “Every day the protesters call me and ask me, ‘What should we do? We are here: what should we do?’

He said he was ready to travel to Kazakhstan to lead a provisional government if the protests escalated.

“I would not only come back – people keep asking when I will be back and blame me for not coming back to lead the protests – but people do not understand how difficult it would be for me to come back because Russia has brought me back. sentenced to 15 years and Kazakhstan to life, ”he said.

Ablyazov rejected suggestions that the West had funded the protests as an attempt to distract from the fact that the protests had national roots.

“I know the Soviet cliché of a Western spy, but I would be happy to be an American or European spy because then we would live like people in America or Europe – and everyone would laugh,” he said. . “Unfortunately, the West is not helping me, the West is hindering me.”

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Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Alex Richardson, Angus MacSwan and Timothy Heritage

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