The West must pull Kazakhstan out of Moscow’s orbit or Russian President Vladimir Putin will draw the Central Asian state into “a structure like the Soviet Union”, a former minister who is now a Kazakh opposition leader told Reuters.
Protests that began as a response to a fuel price rise swelled this week into a broad movement against Nursultan Nazarbayev, who stepped aside as president in 2019 after decades in office but has remained the real power in Kazakhstan.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Nazarbayev’s hand-picked successor, has called in forces from ally Russia as part of a Moscow-led alliance known as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former banker and government minister who is leader of an opposition movement called Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, said the West needed to enter the fray.
“If not, then Kazakhstan will turn into Belarus and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin will methodically impose his programme – the recreation of a structure like the Soviet Union,” Ablyazov told Reuters in Russian from Paris. “The West should tear Kazakhstan away from Russia.”
“Russia has already entered, sent in troops. CSTO is Russia. This is an occupation by Russia,” he said.
He did not say how the West should pull Kazakhstan out of Russia’s orbit, or whether it should use force.
Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic, is wedged between Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
China would stand aside in Kazakhstan and simply observe events, Ablyazov said.
Sentenced in absentia in Kazakhstan for fraud, embezzlement and for organising a murder, Ablyazov, 58, lives in France where he has been granted refugee status. He has dismissed the charges against him in Russia and Kazakhstan as politically motivated.