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Kazakhstan’s Former Chief Speaks Out on Unrest That Gripped the Nation

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan — Kazakhstan’s long-serving former president, who was conspicuously absent through the unrest that rocked the nation this month, posted a video on Tuesday together with his first public feedback for the reason that violence erupted, saying he supported the nation’s chief and the financial reforms he has proposed.

In the video address, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who dominated the Central Asian nation for 3 many years earlier than stepping down, described the unrest — the worst the nation had seen since declaring independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 — as an assault on Kazakhstan.

“The aim of those organized riots and assaults on Kazakhstan was to destroy the integrity of the nation and the foundations of the state,” he stated within the video, delivered in Kazakh and Russian on his web site.

The absence of Mr. Nazarbayev, 81, from Kazakhstan’s political scene fueled hypothesis that he and his relations had left the nation. In his tackle, he stated he was inside Kazakhstan, however gave no proof for his declare.

Mr. Nazarbayev started ruling the nation in 1989 and stepped down in 2019, paving the way in which for his handpicked successor, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Nevertheless, he’s extensively believed to have wielded energy and affect underneath a 2010 legislation that named him “chief of the nation” and gave him a lifetime appointment on the head of the nation’s highly effective Safety Council. He additionally remained the chief of the ruling Nur Otan get together.

Mr. Nazarbayev, who’s extensively seen as having presided over a system of cronyism and corruption in Kazakhstan that enriched only a handful of wealthy businessmen, and his household had been key targets of the protesters. A cry of “Shal Ket!” or “Outdated Man, Out,” directed at Mr. Nazarbayev, shortly turned one of many catchphrases of the protests, which started within the west of the oil-rich nation over a significant increase in fuel prices.

The absence of Mr. Nazarbayev, who had final been seen in public in late December, additionally fueled hypothesis that there had been a rupture between him and Mr. Tokayev. That was exacerbated by feedback Mr. Tokayev made showing responsible his predecessor for the nation’s corruption-ridden financial system that many specialists really feel helped set off the unrest.

Mr. Nazarbayev insisted within the video tackle that he had relinquished formal and casual powers in 2019, saying he was now a easy “pensioner.”

However regardless of that assertion, Arkady Dubnov, an professional on Kazakhstan and different Central Asian nations, stated that Mr. Nazarbayev continued to exert affect inside the authorities past 2019.

Mr. Nazarbayev’s belated look almost definitely meant that varied factions within the authorities had made a deal and that he had agreed to “quit” influential members of his household, Mr. Dubnov stated.

For the reason that unrest, a variety of officers associated to Mr. Nazarbayev have been faraway from their posts, together with his son-in-law as head of the national oil transport company; his nephew on the predominant safety service; and one other son-in-law as chief of a chamber of trade.

Mr. Nazarbayev additionally hailed a raft of reforms introduced by Mr. Tokayev centered on addressing earnings inequality and corruption. “The president put ahead a brand new reform program aimed toward enhancing the welfare of the folks,” he stated. “This program must be supported.”

Mr. Tokayev changed Mr. Nazarbayev as chair of the Safety Council on Jan. 5, because the violent clashes peaked in Kazakhstan’s largest metropolis, Almaty. He additionally ousted officers, described by specialists as Mr. Nazarbayev’s allies, from the highest positions within the Nationwide Safety Committee, the successor to the Ok.G.B.

In his video tackle, Mr. Nazarbayev sought to quash rumors that the violence was the results of a power struggle inside the nation’s elite, saying that Mr. Tokayev now has “full energy.” He additionally stated that Mr. Tokayev would quickly take over as head of the Nur Otan get together.

On Saturday, prosecutors stated that 225 folks had been killed within the violence, and greater than 4,000 injured. The unrest was ultimately quelled after Mr. Tokayev appealed for “peacekeepers” from a Russian-led army alliance of former Soviet nations.

Daniil Kislov, an professional on Central Asia and founding father of the Ferghana, a web site that covers the area, stated Mr. Nazarbayev’s speech put ahead a “somewhat chaotic” set of arguments that obstructed the reality in regards to the final reason behind the violence that struck Kazakhstan within the first week of January.

“No one is ready to inform the reality,” he wrote on his Fb web page. “The simulation of public coverage towards the backdrop of the fiercest undercover squabbling for sources continues.”

Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting from Moscow.

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