At his Vienna visit on March 7, 2022, Roman Vassilenko, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, gave a statement on the subject of the so called “Tragic January” events, as well as on Kazakhstan’s current stance on the events taking place in Ukraine.
“Tragic January” Events
Concerning the events that followed what started out as peaceful protests on January 2, 2022 in the Mangystau region, he stated that the situation had been hijacked by armed terrorists as well as religious and political extremist who tried to destabilize the socio-political situation in the country. According to Vassilenko, there were indications, that it was an attempted coup d’etat with the involvement of foreign terrorist fighters. Following a successful anti-terrorist operation by Kazakhstan’s law enforcement, with the support of CSTO peacekeeping contingent that protected strategic facilities in the country, the state of emergency was lifted. The Kazakh government wants to stress the fact that there should be differentiated between peaceful protests and violent extremists and they did not and will not use armed force against peaceful protestors and that police and National guard were protecting civilians and restoring the order confronting armed criminals and extremists which prevented the collapse of its statehood and protected the life of its citizens.
Nevertheless, the events resulted in the death of 238 people, including 19 police officers and military personnel. For that reason, president Tokayev ordered the investigation of 3,600 criminal cases. The government condemns the excessive use of force, unlawful detention, torture and cruel treatment of detainees and those responsible for violation of human rights will be held accountable in line with the law. Independent monitoring of the observance of the rights of detainees is ensured by the ombudsperson for human rights as well as by representatives of the National Preventive Mechanism against Torture, who have unhindered access to all detention places. Human rights NGOs are also being included in the process.
State Reforms for a “New Kazakhstan”
Due to these tragic incidences, President Tokayev decided to implement his planned state reforms earlier than planned. According to Vassilenko’s statement, these will include measures for a fairer society with more economic opportunities for all. Included will be economic reforms aimed at tackling the current problem of oligopolisation thus ensuring fair competition in businesses and enabling all citizens with an opportunity to reap the benefits of a growing economy. In the “New Economic Course” will continue its open-door policy to foreign investments.
Political reforms are also on the agenda of the Head of State, encouraging greater engagement between authorities and the public, as part of his “listening state” concept. In an address to the nation in mid-March, President Tokayev will unveil a new program of political reforms for realizing his mission of a “New Kazakhstan”.
Kazakhstan Multivector Foreign Policy and Situation in Ukraine
Concerning Kazakhstan’s stance on the situation in Ukraine, Minister Vassilenko stated that Kazakhstan has, due to its common history, a high percentage of citizens of Russian descent and close geographical proximity to the Russian Federation, always followed a multivector foreign policy, which entails the development of friendly and predictable relations with all states that play a significant role in world affairs and are of practical interest to the country and in that regard has offered its mediation services to both involved parties as well as humanitarian assistance to the Ukraine in form of medical supplies. Vassilenko said that Kazakhstan is “(…) toying a delicate line” since its economy is tied to the Eurasean economic union. According to the foreign minister, the sanctions against Russia are also affecting the Kazakh currency, which has lost 15 percent value in only ten days. For that reason, the Kazakh government would like the hostilities to come to an end and has abstained its vote from the U.N. General Assembly’s resolution for sanctions against Russia, promoting a peaceful solution of the conflict.
Title image: Bayterek monument, Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan/(c)unsplash