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Kazakh soldiers guard a road in Almaty, Kazakhstan, yesterday. Picture by Vladimir Tretyakov

Kazakh soldiers guard a road in Almaty, Kazakhstan, yesterday. Picture by Vladimir Tretyakov

Kazakh soldiers guard a road in Almaty, Kazakhstan, yesterday. Picture by Vladimir Tretyakov

Kazakhstan’s embattled former president held talks with the Kremlin-backed dictator of Belarus as Russia appeared to tighten its grip on former Soviet Union states.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was rumoured to have fled the country amid anti-government protests, discussed the “state of affairs” with Alexander Lukashenko, whom Vladimir Putin recently propped up amid sweeping pro-democracy demonstrations.

The call is likely to raise further questions about Russia’s control over Kazakhstan after it sent troops into the country to help “liquidate” the uprising.

The telephone conversation is a likely sign that Mr Nazarbayev still has the support of Mr Putin, despite losing control of parts of the former Soviet state last week in unrest that has killed dozens of people.

Mr Nazarbayev is the self-styled “Leader of the Nation”, or “Elbasy” in Kazakh, who stepped down as president in 2019 but is thought to have held the real power behind the scenes.

The unloved elite have been the focus of the unrest and media have reported that Mr Nazarbayev flew out of Kazakhstan on a private jet last week.

But yesterday his spokesman claimed he was still in Nur-Sultan, the capital that was renamed in his honour.

“Nursultan Nazarbayev had several telephone conversations with the heads of states friendly to Kazakhstan,” the spokesman said. “Elbasy conducts a number of consultative meetings and is in direct contact with the President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.”

At least 3,000 Russian paratroopers flew into Kazakhstan on Thursday, part of a military deployment by the Kremlin-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) to quash what President Tokayev has described as a terrorist attack on the country.

Almaty, the country’s largest city, has been cut off from the outside world with internet and mobile phone communication blocked and foreigners banned from entering.

A resident told The Sunday Telegraph: “There are shotgun sounds in the city centre and Republic Square area. We go out only to buy food or find a bank machine.”

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© Telegraph Media Group Ltd (2022)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


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