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Analysis-Shocked by Ukraine war, Russian neighbour Kazakhstan looks west

REUTERS - Olzhas Auyezov - NOV 17, 2022

ALAMATY (Reuters) - There is little doubt that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev will extend his rule over Kazakhstan by seven years in presidential elections on Sunday. What is less clear is how the former diplomat can reduce his resource-rich country's dependence on Russia without alienating it.

Tokayev – who opinion polls predict will comfortably win reelection at the weekend - has pushed back publicly against territorial claims made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, souring relations between the former Soviet republic and Moscow.

Russia and Kazakhstan share the world's longest continuous land border, prompting concern among some Kazakhs about the security of a country with the second-biggest ethnic Russian population among ex-Soviet republics after Ukraine.

At a forum in St. Petersburg in June where Tokayev shared the stage with Putin, he said his government did not recognize Russian-controlled regions in eastern Ukraine and that Kazakhstan upheld the inviolability of internationally recognised borders.

His blunt remarks took observers by surprise and prompted angry threats from some pro-war commentators in Russian media. And last month, when Tokayev hosted a summit of Central Asia presidents, he held face-to-face meetings with other leaders but no bilateral talks with Putin, amid a cooling in relations.


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