17 January 2022. Moskovsky Komsomolets

Written by Andrey Yashlavsky

Translated by Elizaveta Ovchinnikova


The recent dramatic events in Kazakhstan have long drawn the attention of politicians, the military, special services and the public. The question still arises: what was it? A ‘colour revolution’? A large-scale terrorist attack? A coup attempt? A ‘showdown’ between the ruling clans? Pesident of the International Police Association Russian Section, Lieutenant General, Doctor of Law, Professor, Honoured Lawyer of Russia Yury Zhdanov analysed the versions of the background of events in Kazakhstan.


Who was the ‘puppet master’ of the pogroms in the Central Asian republic


MK: So what caused the tragic events in a seemingly calm and stable country?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: As it turned out, the country was not so stable if such a surge in violence became possible. And everything happened there at once – both a terrorist attack and an attempt at a ‘colour’ revolution, which necessarily entails a change of power. And the main reason for all this is, yes, a ‘showdown’ between ruling clans, elites who did not disdain the help of both Western countries and radical Islamists.

Everything could cause the outbreak of violence. Although this time they were pretty witty: foreign terrorists invaded Kazakhstan to halve gas prices for the local population. Freedom fighters, masked vigilantes. Do you feel some greater force there, say, the CIA?

MK: Then it is a conspiracy. Are there any versions?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: Several of them have been voiced, including by the media. Some of them can be dismissed immediately. For example, Tokayev decided to get rid of Nazarbayev’s guardianship. It’s just stupid to arrange an apocalypse in your republic, having all the power. Or, on the contrary, Nazarbayev decided to get rid of Tokayev. And to destroy monuments to himself for this shouting out ‘old man, go away’? Also does not fit into the logic.

The ‘Chinese trace’ is also nonsense. Why acting so ‘pogromous’ when the PRC’s influence will not go anywhere in any political scenario?

So is the ‘Russian trace.’ The Kazakh revolution would be just another problem in the context of the pre-war situation on the border with Ukraine.

The ‘Afghan trace’ is already warmer. In principle, it can manifest itself in any Central Asian republic. But Kazakhstan is clearly not a priority in the expansion of the *Taliban (the Taliban is a terrorist organisation banned in the Russian Federation). Although President Tokayev said the events of recent days in Kazakhstan were the result of an attack by trained bandits and terrorists, both local and foreign ones.

MK: By the way, how do you feel about the number of these bandits, which Tokayev voiced? He claims that only Alma-Ata was attacked by 20 thousand terrorists.

Mr Yury Zhdanov: Probably, this is, after all, an exaggeration. According to the CIA estimates, 20–30 thousand people are the number of all the Islamic State militants (a terrorist organisation banned in the Russian Federation) at the time when the group controlled the maximum number of territories in Syria and Iraq in 2014. There are no powerful centres of religious extremism in Kazakhstan now. And it does not matter that some citizens of the country joined the ranks of IS militants in 2014–2018 and went to Syria. Their number was small. Those who returned to Kazakhstan were put on trial, many of them are now in prison.

Yes, in the first half of the 2010s, radical Islamists in Kazakhstan made several sorties. But the groups of militants who entered into an open confrontation with the authorities were small.

In general, the foreign fighters who participated in the pogroms served only as ‘cannon fodder.’

MK: Who, in your opinion, was the puppeteer?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: We may consider several candidates for this ‘honourary’ role. Note that the Kazakh special services and the military reacted somewhat sluggishly to the mutiny. Moreover, the capture of the airport, attacks on buildings, including military facilities, looting – all this could not have happened on such a scale without the participation of special services.

Here are some examples. Eyewitnesses claim that there were no looters in any city. Only in Alma-Ata. Why? In order to create the desired image. So, the governing party ‘Nur Otan’ office was burned down. But the strangeness is that no one was injured there, officials were evacuated from there in advance and gave the office the opportunity to burn out completely. The same pattern was observed in the Prosecutor General’s Office. This building is located behind the Governor’s Office (akimat). Even there, surprisingly, access was also open for provocateurs and employees were evacuated.

And most importantly – the National Security Committee of Kazakhstan (NSC) and the airport. The NSC building is a very well-fortified object. It is surrounded by a six-meter fence. In fact, it is a fortress. And some looters take it in a matter of minutes...

And 40 minutes before the attack on the Alma-Ata airport, at the command of the NSC, the security perimeter was completely removed there. Well, what conclusions could be drawn?

MK: Do you think that the leadership of the National Security Committee of Kazakhstan participated in the conspiracy?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: It is not only me who think so, but also the leadership of Kazakhstan. Now the former head of the NSC, National Security Lieutenant General Karim Massimov, was dismissed by President Tokayev after the authorities lost control of Alma-Ata. He is suspected of treason and detained.

Let me remind you that Massimov has been one of the most influential politicians in the last years of the reign of the first President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Prior to his appointment as Chairman of the National Security Committee, he was twice Prime Minister of Kazakhstan and Head of the Presidential Administration, Secretary of the Security Council, Minister of Economy and Minister of Transport in different years. According to some reports, Karim Massimov controls a number of major Kazakh mass media.

Massimov’s appointment to the post of the head of the National Security Service under the first President was assessed by many in the republic as a transfer to a position that would control the entire course of changing the highest authority’s in the republic. Indeed, this is a position that allows Massimov to have a huge amount of compromising material on the entire Kazakh elite. In addition, he was always ‘behind’ the first President. Moreover, Massimov has long been called Nazarbayev’s ‘chief treasurer’ because he allegedly oversaw the laundering and withdrawal of billions of dollars to offshore accounts. In terms of influence, he was the second person after the President in the country.

According to rumours, many more law enforcement officers were arrested, who actually did not obey Tokayev’s orders, focusing entirely on the Family and Massimov.

MK: And yet, what is the point of Massimov to organise the rebellion? Didn’t he already have great power in the republic?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: Apparently, he wanted absolute power. This is a natural process. Not only in Asia. For some reason, he could not accept Tokayev’s presidency. So he launched an attack on him immediately after Tokayev became a presidential nominee.

Tokayev dismissed his friend, the first Deputy Chief, Nazarbayev’s nephew Samat Abish. Kazakh analysts said about Abish that he had radical religious beliefs. He enjoys a reputation as a follower of Salafism, as does his brother, Kairat Satybaldy, who for many years has been considered an informal leader of the country’s religious radicals. It is clear why there have been numerous extremist training camps in the mountains for several years. However, the National Security Council of Kazakhstan was silent about them and did not report to the leadership.

By the way, Nazarbayev’s grandson, the middle son of Dariga’s eldest daughter, Aysultan Nazarbayev (who died in London under strange circumstances, allegedly from a drug overdose), tried to warn his grandfather about the danger. He claimed that four hundred militants lived and trained in the mountains. According to Aysultan, they were being trained against the first President. Curiously, he was talking about Salafists. That’s probably why he died so suddenly – he knew too much.

MK: Did Massimov want to become president himself?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: Maybe he wanted to, but he didn’t have a chance. Like that elephant – will it eat a ton of bananas? It will, but no one’s going to give a ton of bananas to an elephant. The whole problem is that Massimov is Uyghur by nationality nicknamed ‘Chinese.’ The question is: who gave him the nickname? Bandits? Or is it a call sign in some special service?     

Yes, Massimov’s candidacy as a successor has been discussed in expert circles for many years, but every time there was an obstacle in the form of non-Kazakh origin of Karim Kazhimkanovich and his wife Dilyaram. She is also a pure-blooded Uyghur, the daughter of the Soviet-era party leader Azat Mashurov.  

MK: Were there any other contenders for absolute power in Kazakhstan?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: They were and still are. For example, Mukhtar Ablyazov is a Kazakh oppositionist who, according to his own statement, coordinated protests in Kazakhstan from France. Moreover, one of Ablyazov’s headquarters is located in Kiev – this was evident from the phones of the Ukrainian Vodafon operator, which the oppositionist left as contact.

MK: So, if we are to believe the publications on the Internet, he is on the Ukrainian wanted list for billions of embezzlement, isn’t he?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: Not only on Ukrainian – but also on Russian and Israeli ones. He also managed to ‘visit’ both British and French prisons.

Ukrainian online media Country.ua has published data on Ablyazov. According to their information, he is a prominent Kazakh entrepreneur, the owner of Astana-Holding, who had interests in grain, sugar, automobile, banking and media businesses. Since 1997, he has been working for the State – first for an energy state-owned company and then he reached the position of Minister for Energy, Industry and Trade of Kazakhstan. 

Ablyazov planned to introduce market principles of tariff formation. In practice, this meant an increase in tariffs, artificially restrained by the authorities. But Nazarbayev did not allow him to do this, and Ablyazov branded the President as an enemy of reforms.

It is a paradox, but it is precisely because of the increase in gas tariffs that the most violent protests have arisen in Kazakhstan. Which the ‘marketer’ Ablyazov actively supports. Wasn’t he the one who initiated these protests now?

In 1999, having quarreled with President Nazarbayev, he resigned. And in 2001 he founded the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DCK) opposition movement which included some representatives of the current government.

However, soon they began to lose their positions, and a criminal case was opened against Ablyazov for embezzlement of funds and the creation of an organised criminal group. In 2002, he received six years in prison but a year later, under pressure from the West, he was released. The US State Department and the European Parliament stood up for the former minister then.

For some reason, after his release, he went to live in Moscow; from there, by his own admission, he financed the Kazakh opposition. And here is a metamorphosis – in 2005, his career in Kazakhstan went uphill again. He headed the largest private BTA Bank. And by 2009, he already controlled 75 percent of its shares. 

MK: A rare talent or an accident?

Mr Yury Zhdanov:  It happened under strange circumstances. The previous head of this bank, Yerzhan Tatishev, died on a hunting trip, after which Ablyazov received the position. At first, it was officially recognised that it was an accident. But in 2017, businessman Muratkhan Tokmadi said that Tatishev was killed by order of Ablyazov. A year later, the former minister was sentenced to life imprisonment for this. In the same year he was convicted of financial fraud. He was accused and charged in absentia. By that time, the banker had already been in exile for eight years due to other criminal cases related to economic crimes. He calls all the accusations of the authorities and criminal cases against him fabricated for political reasons.

He left Kazakhstan in 2010, and a year later received political asylum in the UK. By that time, his bank had already been nationalised.

MK: And what does his opposition have to do with it?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: That’s where the miracles begin. In France, Ablyazov was detained by Interpol, which was looking for him by the request of Kazakhstan. However, in 2016, a court in Paris refused to extradite him to his homeland. Since then, Ablyazov has been considered the main oppositionist of Kazakhstan, although he coordinates this activity from France. But not only from there.

Back in the summer of 2020, information appeared on the Internet that the DCK was forming a headquarters in Kiev to lead protests in Kazakhstan, which at that time had not yet taken place. It was planned that it would be enough to bring 50 thousand Kazakhs to the streets to overthrow the Nazarbayev regime. And to do this, it would be enough to have a couple of thousand trained activists for each major city, who will guide the rest. At that time, it was planned to coordinate this activity through two centres – Ablyazov himself and the Kiev headquarters, to which the oppositionist gave instructions via video link.

Interestingly, the phones indicated for communication with the Kiev headquarters surfaced literally in the midst of the current Kazakh protests. Ablyazov himself published them on his webpage and called on them to coordinate the actions of the protesters. That is, the headquarters in Kiev is still working today. Another question is what his role is. Anyway, it is extremely interesting that coordination with the Kazakh protests is connected with Ukraine.

MK: But how does this fit in with placing Ablyazov by the same Ukraine on the list of wanted persons? By the way, what is the reason they are looking for him there, what did he do?

Mr Yury Zhdanov:  Back in 2018, the Kyiv prosecutor’s office opened a criminal case against Kazakh Kenneth Alibek for money laundering through the Ukrainian pharmaceutical company MaxWell, which belonged to Alibek and was located in Boryspil. The Ukrainian investigation believes that the firm was used as a cover for Ablyazov’s machinations. It has been in the operational development of Kyiv since 2009. Suspicion against the Kazakh oppositionist in Ukraine was put forward in 2017. In the same year, he was sentenced in absentia for this case in Kazakhstan and put on the wanted list by Interpol. 

This story was then called one of the largest fraudulent schemes. It was investigated jointly by law enforcement officers from Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine. It was claimed that the owner of BTA Bank laundered 7.5 billion dollars in Kazakhstan and another 2.5 billion in Ukraine and Russia. The scheme involved more than a thousand specially created shell companies around the world.

After the announcement of the suspicion in absentia, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine appealed to France with a demand for Ablyazov’s extradition. This petition has so far remained unanswered.

It is known that during his stay in Britain and France, Ablyazov spent some time in prison. Curiously, the English courts recognised Ablyazov as a fraudster, ordered him to return $4.3 billion to BTA Bank and sentenced him to 22 months in prison. Ablyazov did not serve his sentence, hiding under forged documents in France, where he was also arrested in the summer of 2013. There, the banker was held in prison for 3.5 years awaiting extradition to Ukraine or Russia.

Now the oppositionist, who claimed to coordinate protests in Kazakhstan and is actively quoted by Ukrainian and Western media, is officially on the Ukrainian wanted list under Article 191 – ‘Misappropriation, embezzlement or conversion or property by malversation.’ According to the fifth part of this Article, he’s looking at prison time for 7 up to 12 years.

MK: Several countries are catching him, and he is not only at large, but also openly claims to be leading an insurgency in Kazakhstan?

Mr Yury Zhdanov:  So that’s the point. No one was seriously going to arrest him in the West. This is a kind of ‘fog of war,’ a smokescreen. Apparently, Ablyazov is a very necessary person who is an agent of special services of several States at once, but, first of all, the NSC of Kazakhstan. His Ukrainian and British capabilities were useful for the conspirators in the NSC. In addition, he served as a good cover for their actions in organisation of the rebellion – any coordination could be attributed to him.

MK: Perhaps, ‘ordinary’ criminals were also involved in the conspiracy?

Mr Yury Zhdanov:  Exactly! Criminologists and political scientists have already figured out a pattern that no ‘colour revolution’ of recent decades has been complete without the active participation of criminals, to be more particular – organised ones. This pattern is clearly visible in the Kazakh rebellion.

So, on 7 January, criminal authority Arman Dzhumageldiyev, known as ‘Wild Arman,’ was detained in Kazakhstan, whom his masters from the NSC recalled from Turkey in order for him to rebel together with his controlled organised criminal groups. Here it is, ‘cannon fodder’ itself! This 37-year-old bandit is considered the most influential criminal authority in Kazakhstan, who more than 10 years ago crushed all organised criminal groups in the north and in the centre of the country.

In 2005, this ‘Wild Arman’ was already in the political movement in support of Nursultan Nazarbayev, participated in the forceful dispersal of oppositionists. Obviously, under the control of the NSC.

It is well known that the bandit Dzhumageldiyev is Kairat Satybalda’s right hand and close associate, who is Nazarbayev’s nephew, the leader of the religious radical Salafists, about whom we have already spoken. Yes, it was the very deputy of the ‘Chinese’ who was dismissed by the current President of Kazakhstan. It all came together.

MK: And then what?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: And then Tokayev will have to unravel this knot. He behaves decisively; the rebels have not expected this. And the decisiveness is based on the main factor – the support of Russia, which is not the first time it has to strengthen the security of its neighbours and allies.

Tokayev warned: there will be a ‘blamestorming’ in connection with the actions of law enforcement agencies and the army, as well as their interdepartmental coordination. It is critically important for the President to understand why the Kazakh State ‘overslept’ the underground preparation of terrorist attacks and sleeper cells.