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Kazakh president fires rare criticism at predecessor after unrest

Almaty, Kazakhstan, Jan 11: Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev issued rare criticism of his long-ruling predecessor Tuesday, and said he expected Russian-led forces to leave the troubled Central Asian country in the next 10 days.

The oil-rich country’s descent into chaos has laid bare infighting at the very top of a government once utterly dominated by Tokayev’s mentor, 81-year-old Nursultan Nazarbayev, who retains the constitutional status of “Leader of the Nation” despite stepping down from the presidency in 2019.

Addressing the government and parliament in a videoconference call broadcast live, the 68-year-old Tokayev fired an eyebrow-raising broadside at Nazarbayev as the post-Soviet country reels from unprecedented violence that began with peaceful protests over an energy price hike.

Tokayev said Nazarbayev’s rule had created “a layer of wealthy people, even by international standards”.

“I believe that the time has come to pay tribute to the people of Kazakhstan and help them on a systematic and regular basis,” Tokayev added, noting that “very profitable companies” would be asked to pay money into a state fund.

Both Kazakhstan and Russia have framed last week’s unrest that left dozens dead and has seen almost 10,000 people arrested as a coup attempt assisted by foreign “terrorists”, but have provided little evidence to support the claim.

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