Kazakhstan’s ex-leader denies fleeing abroad amid protests

18 January 2022, 14:04

Nursultan Nazarbayev
President of Kazakhstan visit. Picture: PA

It is the first time that Nursultan Nazarbayev has spoken publicly about the protests.

Kazakhstan’s influential former leader has released a short video in which he talks 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 is 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 – has spoken publicly about the protests and the bloodshed they descended into.

He also denied there were tensions between him and his hand-picked successor, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Some speculated that a rift between the two could have played a role in exacerbating the unrest.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (Kazakhstan’s Presidential Press Service/AP)

Protests in Kazakhstan, an oil and gas-rich nation of 19 million in Central Asia, began on January 2 in a small western town over the near-doubling of fuel prices.

They spread quickly across the vast country, growing into a general protest against the authoritarian government and turning into violent riots that killed more than 220 people.

Mr Tokayev sought to calm the crowds by announcing a 180-day cap on fuel prices and removing Mr Nazarbayev as head of the National Security Council, an influential post he had occupied since stepping down.

The move was seen by some as an attempt to end the former leader’s patronage that had ignited tensions among Kazakhstan’s ruling elite, further fuelling the unrest.

In his video address on Tuesday, Mr Nazarbayev, 81, rejected these allegations, saying: “There is no conflict or confrontation within the country’s elite. The rumours in this regard are completely groundless.”

Russian troops with the Collective Security Treaty Organisation in Almaty, Kazakhstan (Vladimir Tretyakov/NUR.KZ/AP)

He brushed off reports that claimed he had fled the country, and backed Mr Tokayev’s move to take over as head of the National Security Council.

“In 2019, I handed over the presidential authority to Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and have ever since been a retiree, currently enjoying retirement in the capital of Kazakhstan, having never left anywhere,” he said.

“President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has the full power, he’s the chairman of the Security Council.”

According to Kazakhstan’s officials, 227 people died in the violence, including 19 police officers and servicemen, after health minister Azhar Giniyat said two more people who were injured in the unrest had died in hospital.

More than 4,300 people were injured, and thousands have been detained by authorities.

To quell the unrest, Mr Tokayev requested help from the Russia-led military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, which is made up of six former Soviet nations.

The bloc sent more than 2,000 troops to Kazakhstan and withdrew them after several days.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Russia Ukraine War

Russian troops storm city amid eastern Ukraine bombardments

A mountain range near Pokhara, Nepal

Plane with 22 on board missing in Nepal’s mountains

Meghan Markle is thought to have reached out to her estranged father

Meghan Markle 'has reached out to father' days after he suffered stroke and lost speech

Young Jewish people wave Israeli flags near the Western Wall in Jerusalem

Visit to holy site by far-right Israeli politician sparks Jerusalem unrest

Shoppers in a reopened mall in Beijing

Beijing and Shanghai ease Covid restrictions as outbreaks fade

Presidential candidate Gustavo Petro

Colombians to vote for president amid widespread discontent

Rescuers look out of the windows of a helicopter

25 missing after cargo boat sinks in Indonesia

Nigeria Church Stampede

31 dead in church fair stampede in Nigeria

Russia Ukraine War

Russia takes small cities as it aims to widen battle in east Ukraine

Iran accused of piracy for seizing two Greek oil tankers

Fears oil price will rise again after Iran accused of piracy for seizing Greek oil tankers

Building Collapse-Florida

Judge in US gives initial OK to a billion-dollar deal in Florida condo collapse

Cardinal Angelo Sodano

Powerful Vatican prelate Cardinal Angelo Sodano dies aged 94

Donald Trump

Senior Republicans’ claims at NRA rally called into question

Iranian collapse

Iranian police disperse crowd gathered at collapsed building

Shattered building in Mariupol

Ukrainian leaders fear repeat of Mariupol horrors in Donbas region

A grieving woman at the memorial

Girl ‘pleaded for police help’ while officers waited outside massacre classroom