Kazakh president at odds with Putin over separatist republics

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg Friday that Kazakhstan will not recognize the eastern Ukrainian separatist republics of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states.

The right to self-determination guaranteed by the United Nations collides with the right of states to territorial integrity, which is why Taiwan, Kosovo, Abkhazia or South Ossetia are not recognized. “And this principle obviously applies to such quasi-state territories as Donetsk and Luhansk,” Tokayev said.

With his comment, Tokayev set himself at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as whose guest of honor he sat on the podium in St. Petersburg. Russia has recognized the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and cites their defense as one reason for the war against Ukraine.

Even though Kazakhstan is a close ally of Moscow, Tokayev did not fully back the Ukraine war. “There are different opinions, we are an open society,” he said. Again, I have referred to the right of states to integrity.

The president of the oil-rich country also assessed the global economic situation differently from Putin, who saw the dominance of the West coming to an end. True, there was a crisis, Tokayev said, according to Russian agencies. “But at the same time, you have to see that the US and the West as a whole are solid in terms of economic development,” he added.

When mass protests broke out in Kazakhstan in January against Tokayev’s authoritarian rule, Putin had sent military aid. The protest collapsed. Tokayev now complained that young, well-educated people were leaving Russia as well as Kazakhstan. “They contribute to progress in other countries. That, I think, is our failure,” he said.

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