Troops of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have completed their withdrawal from Kazakhstan, where they were invited by the Central Asian nation’s government in the wake of deadly protests in the country’s largest city, Almaty, in early January.
In early January, the sudden outbreak of massive anti-government protests in Kazakhstan and subsequent intervention by the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) reverberated across the entire post-Soviet space, including Azerbaijan. These events on the other side of the Caspian Sea are of great importance to Azerbaijan for several key reasons.
Above all, Kazakhstan is a major transit country along the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR), also known as the “Middle Corridor,” a multimodal transportation linkage between China and the European Union through Central Asia, the South Caucasus, Turkey, and Europe’s East (see EDM, April 27, 2020). The Kazakhstani crisis was initially seen in the region as a potential threat to this route (Commersant.ge, January 10, 2022); however, as the political situation there looks to have largely stabilized, the crisis would have only a temporary impact on the transportation along the TITR.
More than any other event since the Crimean annexation in 2014, the popular protests in Kazakhstan and the subsequent Russian-led intervention to suppress them have deeply troubled the countries of the former Soviet space. Many are now fearful that both the protests and their suppression could be repeated in their own countries, while others worry about what this means for their domestic political transitions, for the broader regional situation, and for relations with the Russian Federation. Discussions about all these issues are continuing, but widespread agreement is emerging across the former Soviet space that this region has been transformed by what has happened in and to Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan’s influential former leader released a short video on Tuesday in which he talked about the violent unrest that engulfed the ex-Soviet nation earlier this month and rejected reports alleging that he fled the country amid tensions with the current president.
It was the first time that Nursultan Nazarbayev, who ran Kazakhstan for 29 years after it gained independence and kept an influential post after stepping down as president in 2019, spoke publicly about the protests and the bloodshed they descended into.
The wife of noted Kazakh journalist Makhambet Abzhan says he disappeared a week ago amid the unprecedented political turmoil in the Central Asian country.
Gulzira Duisembaeva told RFE/RL on January 18 that she had received no information about her husband’s whereabouts since he left home in Almaty on January 6, amid the deadly anti-government protests in Kazakhstan’s largest city and elsewhere.
Kazakh ex-President Nursultan Nazarbaev has denied any conflict with his successor after deadly anti-government protests in the oil-rich Central Asian state earlier this month triggered allegations of a power struggle.
“I handed all presidential powers to Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev in 2019 and since then have been a pensioner,” the 81-year-old Nazarbaev said in a heavily edited video statement released on January 18.
When mass disorder broke out in the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan earlier this month, many analysts attributed the unrest to conflicts between supporters of President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev and those of his longtime predecessor, 81-year-old Nursultan Nazarbaev.
An investigation by RFE/RL’s Russian Service and Current Time, a Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, into the Russian assets of Toqaev’s family has revealed indications that the once-intertwined business interests of Kazakhstan’s current and former presidents have been unraveling.
Noted Kazakh civil rights activist Kenzhebek Abishev has died at the age of 55, three months after he was released from prison.
Two more close relatives of Nursultan Nazarbaev have lost their posts in the latest indication that the Kazakh government was moving to purge or squeeze members of the former president’s extended family in the wake of unprecedented political turmoil.