Is Kazakhstan-Russia relationship under strain?

While Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev allegedly speaks out against the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine in his St. Petersburg speech, he also calls Putin his “robust ally” during the Qatar Economic Forum. Kazakhstan remains the Kremlin’s solid ally and a “third country” helping Russia to evade Western sanctions.

While thousands of Ukrainians die in Russia’s war, Russian businesses register and open accounts in Kazakhstan to gain access to international payment systems and compensate for Moscow’s import losses. To avoid secondary sanctions, Kazakhstan tries to balance between Russia and the West. The country expands trade and economic cooperation with Russia, not to mention the fact that the two countries are members of one economic and customs union.

This means steady revenues to the Russian budget and, therefore, the financing of military aggression in Ukraine. However, Russia threatens not only Ukrainian territorial integrity but also wants to increase its influence in Central Asia. As a result, it may have some territorial claims to Kazakhstan, which is strongly affected by Russian information space. In any case, Russian unprecedented aggression leaves no rooms for neutrality, so Kazakhstan must finally understand whose side it is on.

While brutal Russian aggression killed thousands of Ukrainians, Kazakhstan tries to remain neutral and balance between Russia and the West. While Kazakhstan is not subject to secondary sanctions, the country is being used by Russian businesses to fill the budget which means more resources for the war in Ukraine. Is Kazakhstan our friend or foe? Watch Ukraine in Flames #107 to learn this and much more.


  • Evgeniy Zhovtis, Kazakhstan human rights activist, director of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law
  • Daniyar Khassenov, Kazakhstan human rights activist
  • Yurii Poita, Head of the Asian section at the New Geopolitics Research Network.

UKRAINE IN FLAMES project is created by Ukraine Crisis Media CenterUkrainian Catholic University’s analitical center and NGO “Euroatlantic Course”.  We are aiming at searching a loud support for Ukraine in the war started by Russia on the 24th of February 2022.

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