Putin's visit to Astana draws scorn from Kazakhs on social media

By Kanat Altynbayev

The 6th CICA summit in Astana, which took place on October 13, was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin. [The presidential administration's website,]

The 6th CICA summit in Astana, which took place on October 13, was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin. [The presidential administration's website,]

ALMATY -- Kazakhs are urging their government to cut ties with Russia even as Astana hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin for international summits last week.

The Kazakh capital on October 12-13 hosted the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA).

The next day, it also held the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Central Asia–Russia summits.

The presidents and heads of state of some 10 countries attended the high-level forums.

A demonstrator holds a placard during a rally in support of Ukraine in Almaty on March 6. [Malika Autalipova/AFP]

A demonstrator holds a placard during a rally in support of Ukraine in Almaty on March 6. [Malika Autalipova/AFP]

Putin arrived in Astana on October 13, just days after large-scale missile strikes rained down over Ukraine's Kyiv, Zaporizhzhia, Vinnytsia, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Khmelnytskyi, Mykolaiv, Rivne and Odesa regions.

The Ukrainian Defence Ministry said October 10 that Russia had fired 83 missiles at Ukraine, of which its air defences shot down 52. Forty-three of those were cruise missiles.

The missile strikes damaged energy infrastructure facilities and dozens of multistory residential buildings and cars.

Ukraine said 19 people died and more than 100 were wounded in the strikes, while the United Nations (UN) said Russia's bombardment may have violated the laws of war.

'A bloodsucker and scoundrel'

Putin's visit to Astana comes amid growing disapproval of his regime in Kazakhstan.

Thousands of Kazakh Facebook users shared an image of the Russian president in which he is sporting Adolf Hitler's signature mustache and haircut in front of the flag of Nazi Germany.

A caption reads, "We oppose Putler's visit to Kazakhstan."

"I'm a Kazakh citizen and I don't want putin [sic] to come to my country. I don't want the feet of a war criminal to touch the soil of my home," Arman Shaikenov, who works at Kazakh Humanities and Law University in Astana, wrote on Facebook.

Shaikenov deliberately wrote 'Putin' in lowercase, a sign used on Kazakh social media to underscore disparagement.

"Putin is a bloodsucker and scoundrel. No one in Kazakhstan is waiting for you," wrote Janat Aimaganov, an instructor at Almaty Technological University.

"The man who issued the orders to again attack peaceful cities last night is coming here. People died. Even children died," wrote Yerzhan Yessimkhanov of Almaty, an entrepreneur and partner in the international law firm GRATA International.

"Let's call a spade a spade: a war criminal and murderer is coming to Kazakhstan. He's the man who in Ukraine is called a cannibal," he added.

Yessimkhanov urged the government to sever all ties with Russia, even if that means that Kazakhstan will need to face dire consequences.

Sooner or later Kazakhstan will need to take this step so that it "doesn't associate with this evil in plain view of the civilized world", he said.

"When your neighbour assaults children and you know it but you still say hello to him and invite him to your home, before you know it all your other neighbours will start to think that you have too much in common with him," Yessimkhanov wrote.

Yelena Shvetsova of Astana, the executive director of the human rights NGO Erkindik Kanaty (Wings of Freedom), asked why Kazakhstan, which opposes the war, is officially welcoming the person who unleashed it and recently fired missiles on Ukrainian cities.

In an interview with Caravanserai, Shvetsova said that although social media should not be taken as an indicator of the opinion of the country's population as a whole, the majority of the people in her circle, which is made up of civil society, have sharply criticised Putin's visit to Kazakhstan.

"We realise that we have a political and economic relationship with Russia, but it would have been better to meet with Putin outside Kazakhstan," she said.

'We need to join the civilised world'

Kazakhs' current negative sentiment about Putin's visit to their country comes amid changes in Kazakhstan's foreign policy priorities, say observers.

Astana has not recognised the self-proclaimed territories in eastern Ukraine -- the Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic, where the Russian authorities staged illegal referendums late last month -- or that of Crimea.

Instead, Kazakhstan has stated its commitment to UN principles and respect for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Kazakh officials earlier this month also rejected demands by Russia to expel Ukraine's Ambassador to Kazakhstan Petr Vrublevsky after he said in an interview in August that Ukrainian armed forces aim to "kill as many Russians as possible".

Zhyldyz Aliyeva, a reporter for the Almaty newspaper Delovaya Nedelya (Business Week), said that in the future, official Astana will attempt to limit co-operation with Russia and its dependence on Moscow in all areas.

"People's intensifying condemnation of the war in Ukraine with its missile attacks on cities and killing of civilians, and the population's rising hatred for Putin can't fail to influence the position of the Akorda [Kazakhstan's presidential residence] and its political decisions," Aliyeva told Caravanserai.

"We need to join the civilised world, not the totalitarian past that the Kremlin is striving for."

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He could talk via the Internet video link. What do we need Putin here for? Let him stay in his dungeon.


True, he's not welcome here.