Fears grow that Russia could soon turn against Kazakhstan

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·2-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Russian president Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kazakhstan's President at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum - Gavriil Grigorov
Russian president Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kazakhstan's President at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum - Gavriil Grigorov

Russia has accused Kazakhstan of ignoring "Russophobic activity", raising fears that the Kremlin may turn against the nation after its war in Ukraine.

Igor Krasnov, Russia's chief prosecutor, claimed Ukrainian activists in Kazakhstan were helping to fuel anti-Russian sentiment.

"I am regularly informed that with the support of Ukrainian non-governmental organisations, active Russophobic activity is also unfolding in Kazakhstan," Mr Krasnov said during talks with his Kazakh counterparts in Minsk, where chief public prosecutors from around the former Soviet Union met.

The Kremlin used the pretext of defending marginalised ethnic Russians to justify its war in Ukraine and in April, Russian generals also said that their armies should battle all the way to the border with Moldova, where it claimed ethnic Russians were being discriminated against.

Kazakhstan and Russia share the world's longest continuous land border and have been regarded as staunch allies, but Russia's invasion of Ukraine has fractured this alliance. Earlier this month, during a televised press conference, Kassym Jomart Tokayev, the Kazakh president, embarrassed Vladimir Putin during the final session of an economic forum by explaining that he did not support the independence of pro-Russia regions in Donbas.

Twenty minutes later, Putin warned that the territories of the Soviet Union are Russian.

Kremlin-linked propagandists and Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen leader, have since told the Kazakh government to back the Kremlin.

Publicly, Kazakh government officials have played down any fracturing of relations with the Kremlin but privately they are concerned. Ordinary Kazakhs are also worried that Putin may turn his attention to Kazakhstan once he has achieved his war aims in Ukraine.

'We would be no match for Russia'

"Yes, for sure we could be next," Chingiz, a former baker based in the Kazakh capital Nur Sultan, said last week. "We have a small army and would be no match for Russia. It's not good."

Kazakhstan has a large ethnic Russian population of around 3.5 million people, out of a population of 19 million. Many of these live in the north of the country and pro-Russian sentiment there, hardened by Kremlin TV propaganda, is running high.

Thousands of anti-war Russians have also set up new homes in Kazakhstan since the start of the war. Many from Moscow and St Petersburg fled to Almaty, the wealthy former capital in southern Kazakhstan. Uralsk, in northern Kazakhstan only 45 miles from the border with Russia, has also become a refuge for anti-war Russians fleeing from cities in the Urals, only a few hours drive away.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting