ALMATY -- A "hacked" post on social media by former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev questioning the sovereignty of former Soviet countries has drawn scrutiny and anger from Kazakhs.
The post -- shared with Medvedev's 2.2 million followers on VKontakte (VK), a Russian social network -- was taken down shortly after publication overnight on August 1. It was online for only 10 minutes, but dozens of users took screenshots.
After defeating Ukraine, Moscow should take back lost lands that today belong to neighbouring countries to revive a "united, mighty and invincible Russia", the post.
"Under Moscow's indivisible hand, with the Slavic people at the head, we will proceed to the next campaign to restore our motherland's borders, which, as you know, do not end anywhere," it said.
The post openly questioned neighbouring countries' territorial legitimacy as well as their sovereignty.
It claimed that Georgia "didn't exist at all" before becoming part of the Russian empire in the 1800s.
The post called Kazakhstan an "artificial state" and accused the Central Asian country of committing "genocide" on its Russian population.
"Russians founded the first settlements in the wild lands of Northern Kazakhstan ... Kazakhstan is an artificial state," it said.
Kazakh authorities have begun to resettle "various ethnic groups" within the republic, the post added, referring to a resettlement programme aimed at tackling a labour shortage in the country's north.
"And we don't intend to turn a blind eye to it. Until Russians arrive there, there will be no order," it added.
Medvedev, 56, now deputy chairman of the Security Council, served one term as president between 2008 and 2012.
Since the start of Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine and the onslaught of unprecedented sanctions, he has published increasingly hawkish posts on social media, lashing out at the West.
Medvedev has previously called those who "hate" Russia "degenerates" and invoked the possibility of a nuclear war.
However, Oleg Osipov, an aide to Medvedev, claims the vitriol and chauvinism in the recent VK post did not come from his boss, and that his account had been hacked beforehand.
"The social network's admins and the appropriate persons are investigating who hacked the page and made a post," Osipov said August 2, according to AFP.
The claim immediately drew incredulity.
No "hack" actually occurred, said General SVR, a Telegram channel said to be run by former and current employees of Russia's security agencies, on August 2.
Presidential administration deputy director Sergei Kiriyenko ordered the post to be written, and approved the text for publication in Medvedev's feed but did not approve the publication date, the channel claimed.
"Medvedev himself is already despairing that he is the victim of plots in the president [Vladimir Putin]'s entourage and blames Kiriyenko and his son, who has a direct relationship with VK, for everything."
"But according to our information, Medvedev published the post, and the rest is an attempt to avoid responsibility and to excuse away the communication problem," the channel said.
While Kazakh officials did not comment on the incident, many in Kazakhstan are sceptical of the claim.
Medvedev's recent blunt posts have been fully aligned with Russia's current actions, noted Assem Zhapisheva, a journalist and activist based in Almaty.
"There is no doubt that hackers have nothing to do with Medvedev's latest post," she said.
"Driven by imperial ambitions, Russia truly dreams of conquering not only Ukraine but also Georgia and Kazakhstan, and this is no secret."
Urazgali Selteyev, a Nur-Sultan resident and director of the Institute for Eurasian Integration, is also sceptical of the "hack".
Medvedev's post signals the Kremlin's current views, he said.
"Officials know what Putin is striving for, and they compete in the information space, trying to present this future as clearly and accurately as possible in order to win his favour," said Selteyev.
Kazakhstan should take the growing threat from Russia seriously, said Yuri Poyta, a Kyiv resident and head of the Asia-Pacific Section of the Centre for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies.
The Kremlin's discourse is dangerous and could be put into practice, as was the case with Ukraine, he said.
"This threat is real because this talk -- which is based on manipulation and disinformation about oppressed Russians -- could become grounds for Russia to intervene in the affairs of an 'artificial state' and 'correct the mistakes' of the past," Poyta said.
Such talk is already making the rounds at the highest levels of power, he added.
Russian officials and lawmakers have increasingly made veiled threats against Kazakhstan, which has refused to support Moscow's invasion of Ukraine or to recognise the independence of the so-called "Donetsk People's Republic" (DPR) and "Luhansk People's Republic" (LPR).
State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs Deputy Chairman Konstantin Zatulin in an interview with radio station Govorit Moskva in June suggested a potential invasion of Kazakhstan.
"They [Kazakhs] know only too well that a number of provinces and towns populated predominantly by Russians have little to do with what is called Kazakhstan," he said, in an apparent reference to North Kazakhstan province, which Russian politicians in the past have claimed historically belonged to Russia.
If allies have "friendship, co-operation and partnership" with Russia, then they will not face "territorial issues", he added.
"But if these things do not exist, then anything is possible. As in the case of Ukraine."
"So, it seems to me that it would be worthwhile for Kazakhstan and other countries to pay attention to this part of the matter," Zatulin warned.