Kazakh president issues rare criticism of predecessor

Kazakh president issues rare criticism of predecessor

January 11, 2022

Kazakh president blames his predecessor for creating ‘a layer of wealthy people’ during his rule following violent protests as Russian troops prepare to leave the country

  • Tokayev fired an eyebrow-raising accusation at his mentor Nursultan Nazarbayev
  • He blamed Nazarbayev’s rule for exacerbating wealth divisions in Kazakhstan
  • Tokayev last week announced Nazarbayev’s resignation from security council
  • Nazarbayev in 2019 stood down after 30 years in power in Kazakhstan
  • It comes as a 2,500-strong contingent of Russian-led forces prepare to withdraw

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev today issued rare criticism of his long-ruling predecessor, blaming him for exacerbating wealth divisions in the country. 

Addressing the government and parliament in a video call broadcast live earlier today, the 68-year-old Tokayev fired an eyebrow-raising accusation at his mentor, 81-year-old Nursultan Nazarbayev, who retains the constitutional status of ‘Leader of the Nation’ despite stepping down from the presidency in 2019.  

Tokayev said Nazarbayev’s rule had created ‘a layer of wealthy people, even by international standards’, with the post-Soviet country still reeling from unprecedented violence that began with peaceful protests over an energy price hike on Jan 2.

‘I believe that the time has come to pay tribute to the people of Kazakhstan and help them on a systematic and regular basis,’ Tokayev continued, noting that ‘very profitable companies’ would be asked to pay money into a state fund. 

Both Kazakhstan and Russia have framed last week’s unrest that left dozens dead and has seen almost 10,000 people arrested as a coup attempt assisted by foreign ‘terrorists’, but have provided little evidence to support the claim.

It comes as a 2,500-strong contingent of Russian-led peacekeeping forces began preparations to pull out of the Central Asian nation in the coming days after quelling the uprisings. 

Kazakhstan’s President Kasym-Jomart Tokayev is seen during a videoconference meeting with the leaders of factions of the Majilis, the Lower House of the Kazakh Parliament, Jan 11, 2022

Addressing the government and parliament in a video call broadcast live earlier today, the 68-year-old Tokayev fired an eyebrow-raising accusation at his mentor, 81-year-old Nursultan Nazarbayev (pictured 2018), who retains the constitutional status of ‘Leader of the Nation’ despite stepping down from the presidency in 2019

A burning truck is seen by the mayor’s office in Almaty, January 5, 2022. Protests across Kazakhstan turned violent last week and led to dozens of deaths and thousands of protestors being detained

January 5: A monument to ex-president Nursultan Nazarbayev is pulled down by protesters who chanted ‘old man, go away’ amid escalating violence. On the same day, Tokayev announced Nazarbayev’s resignation from Kazakhstan’s security council and at the weekend arrested one of his closest allies for treason

Nazarbayev in 2019 stood down after 30 years in power in Kazakhstan, handpicking Tokayev as successor before retaining his title as leader of the nation, placing his daughter in a key political post and taking lifetime immunity from any prosecution.

When protests flared last week, crowds pulled down a statue to Nazarbayev and began chanting ‘old man, go away’ amid escalating violence.

This prompted a series of unprecedented moves from Tokayev, who set about making concessions to seemingly reduce his mentor’s grip on power.

On January 5, Tokayev announced Nazarbayev’s resignation from Kazakhstan’s security council, before having former national security committee chief Karim Masimov – a key Nazarbayev ally – arrested on treason charges on Saturday in connection with the unrest.

In another significant move, Tokayev today announced plans to bring an end to a widely criticised private recycling monopoly linked to the former president’s youngest daughter, Aliya Nazarbayeva, 41.

‘This should be done by a state organisation, as is the case in foreign countries,’ he said. 

During this morning’s governmental and parliamentary conference, Tokayev went on to declare that ‘a phased withdrawal’ of the Russian-led CSTO peacekeeping forces would begin in two days and take ‘no more than 10 days.’

‘The main mission of the CSTO peacekeeping forces has been successfully completed,’ he said.

Around 2,500 CSTO troops were dispatched at the peak of the crisis last week, after armed clashes between government opponents and security forces caused considerable damage, most notably in the largest city of Almaty, and resulted in over 150 deaths.

The dispatching of troops was a first for the CSTO, which is often touted by Moscow as a NATO equivalent but has until now been reluctant to interfere in unrest in Central Asia. 

With Putin acting upon Tokayev’s request to dispatch troops within 24 hours last week amid the violence, concern has mounted that Moscow could leverage the mission to shore up its influence in Kazakhstan. 

Around 2,500 CSTO troops were dispatched to Kazakhstan at the peak of the crisis last week, after armed clashes between government opponents and security forces caused considerable damage (A Russian CSTO peacekeeper stands guard today in Almaty)

A car windshield is stained with blood following clashes in the central square blocked by Kazakhstan troops and police in Almaty, Kazakhstan on Monday, Jan. 10

Kazakh policemen during protests over a hike in energy prices in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on January 5

Many residents of Almaty credited the CSTO as a stabilising force that had helped Tokayev gain control over the situation after spending several days inside as gunfire echoed around the city.

Roza Matayeva, a 45-year-old English teacher, got used to tuning into her radio during the five-day internet blackout in Kazakhstan’s financial hub that ended briefly Monday morning before the city of 1.8 million went offline again at lunchtime.

News that the Moscow-led bloc had agreed to Tokayev’s request to send a detachment ‘brought relief and hope that the situation will be decided for the best in the near future,’ she told AFP.

‘I welcome cooperation with Russia. I think there is no threat to our sovereignty.’

But Adil Kuandykov, a wedding photographer who lives close to the presidential residence that saw some of the worst fighting in the former capital, said he no longer had trust in soldiers of any sort, after seeing corpses on the road near his house early on Thursday morning.

‘There will be peace,’ said Kuandykov, 54, who burst into tears during the interview.

‘But it will be a bad peace.’

Local citizens walk through a street in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. Authorities in Kazakhstan say nearly 8,000 people were detained by police during protests that descended into violence last week

Many residents of Almaty credited the CSTO as a stabilising force that had helped Tokayev gain control over the unrest, but others are wary of Russia’s willingness to intervene (Two local women carry food through a street in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022)

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