03/04/2022, 11.27
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War in Ukraine: Kazakhs offer to mediate between Moscow and Kiev

by Vladimir Rozanskij

President Tokaev talks with Putin and Zelensky. Kazakh authorities and companies worried about the fallout from the conflict and Western sanctions against Russia. In terms of the Kremlin's geopolitical aims, with a large population of Russian origin, Kazakhstan's situation is similar to that of Ukraine.


Moscow (AsiaNews) - After heavy criticism for failing to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kazakhstan's President Kasym-Žomart Tokaev has decided to offer himself as a neutral mediator between the two "brotherly" countries in conflict. He did so after having his representatives at the UN abstain and contacting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj by phone.

As the spokesman for the Kazakh president, Berik Kurmangali, said, the talks took place "at the request of Ukraine", and Tokaev stressed "the importance of reaching an agreement in the negotiations in order to stop and prevent further escalation of war operations in Ukraine". Zelenskyj made it known via Twitter that he had discussed the difficult security situation throughout the region, and made agreements on humanitarian issues, promising "to stay in touch".

Earlier, Tokaev had called Russian President Vladimir Putin, asking him to "reach a compromise" on Ukraine. Kazakhstan had actually avoided officially condemning the start of the Russian action on 24 February. So far, Nur-Sultan has maintained total secrecy about this assessment, so much so that it has attracted accusations from the West that it is in fact a supporter of Russia and should be subject to sanctions.

At the extraordinary session of the UN General Assembly on 2 March, where the resolution condemning Russia was overwhelmingly approved with 141 votes in favour, Kazakhstan was one of 35 countries that abstained, while only five voted against: Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Syria and Eritrea. Zelenskyj thanked those in favour, declaring that he had "chosen the right side", and his thanks were implicitly extended to the neutrals, starting with China and Kazakhstan, who had in some way demonstrated the groundlessness of Putin's claims over the entire former Soviet area.

Kazakhstan is in fact the "other side" of Ukraine, having been defined even recently by Putin as a country that was "originally Russian", both because of the vast common territories artificially subdivided during the Soviet period (such as Crimea and Donbass), and because of the historical link that in this case does not depend on the common Christian baptism as in Kiev, but on the Eurasian ethnic exchange evident since the earliest centuries. It is no coincidence that the "Kazakhs" are a term that in Russian sounds identical to the "Cossacks", precisely because of the contiguity of the ethnic-social composition of nomads and refugees in the territories straddling Europe and Asia.

The Ukrainian events of recent days are also seriously affecting Kazakhstan's economy, so much so that local businessmen have recently asked Tokaev to form an "anti-crisis commission" to study ways of easing the burden of sanctions against Russia on the country's economy. The chairman of the board of directors of the influential "Kusto Group", Erkin Tatišev, said that "constant joint work is needed to unite experts in economics, finance and business under the leadership of the president, so that Kazakhstan does not collapse into widespread poverty".

Nearly 100 Kazakh commercial convoys have been stranded in Ukraine, and many Kazakh citizens are trying to reach Poland. According to the Nur-Sultan Foreign Ministry, more than 1,500 Kazakhs are still in Ukraine.

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