West must stand up to Russia in Kazakhstan, dissident former banker says

A vehicle that was set on fire during protests sparked by rising fuel prices is seen on a road in Almaty, Kazakhstan, January 6, 2022. REUTERS / Pavel Mikheyev

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LONDON, Jan. 7 (Reuters) – A self-styled Kazakh opposition leader on Friday urged the West to get involved in the Central Asian republic, saying otherwise Russia would bring it into line in some sort of Soviet Union restored.

The protests that began in response to rising fuel prices have turned this week into a broad movement against Nursultan Nazarbayev, the supreme ruler of Kazakhstan since Soviet times.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Nazarbayev’s hand-picked successor, called on Russian ally forces as part of a Moscow-led alliance known as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO ).

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Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former banker and government minister who heads an opposition movement called Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, said the West must join in the fray.

“Otherwise, Kazakhstan will become Belarus and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin will methodically impose his program – the recreation of a structure like the Soviet Union, “Ablyazov told Reuters from Paris in Russian.

“Kazakhstan is now in the geopolitical game,” he said. “Russia has already entered, sent troops. The CSTO is Russia. It is an occupation by Russia.”

Wanted at home for fraud and embezzlement, Abliazov lives in France where he obtained refugee status. He dismissed all charges against him in Russia and Kazakhstan as politically motivated.

Ablyazov presented himself as the leader of the opposition protests and said he was consulted every day on tactics on the ground in Almaty.

“I consider myself to be the leader of the opposition,” he said. . “Every day the protesters call me and ask me, ‘What should we do? We are here: what should we do?’

He said he was ready to travel to Kazakhstan to lead a provisional government if the protests escalated and said his activists were waiting for him.

“The West should wrest Kazakhstan from Russia,” he said. “The West must help so that Putin cannot occupy this country, the West must help civil society elect its leaders so that the country can choose its path, a democratic path like in the West.”

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Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Alex Richardson and Angus MacSwan

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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