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A now-deleted social media post from one of Vladimir Putin’s closest allies may have revealed the next country on Russia's hitlist, according to an expert.
Ever since the despot launched his invasion of Ukraine in February this year, there have been fears that Putin’s aims may reach further afield.
Although the heavy losses suffered by Russian forces in Ukraine will probably inhibit Putin launching a new invasion for now, a recent post attributed to Dmitry Medvedev – former president and current deputy head of the Russian Security Council – has experts concerned.
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The post shared on August 2 declared that what is today northern Kazakhstan was "historically" part of Russia.
It was quickly deleted and hacking was blamed for it going live in the first place.
Eurasia specialist Paul Globe, writing for The Jamestown Foundation research group, claims that most Russian commentators believe the post actually reflects the view of many within the Kremlin, including Medvedev.
"As a result, increasing numbers of Kremlin analysts have suggested that Kazakhstan is likely to become Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next target," he wrote.
Globe said that the Kremlin is "furious" with Kazakhstan's leadership for their "ingratitude" after Russia helped quell an uprising in the country in January this year.
An increasing wave of Kazakhstani nationalism and efforts to tempt foreign firms fleeing Russia to set up shop in Kazakhstan were also cited as other aggravating factors.
Globe said: "That Moscow is angry and that Nur-Sultan [the capital of Kazakhstan] is worried are beyond doubt.
"A veritable war of words have occurred between the two sides, with Russian writers talking about Kazakhstan becoming 'a second Ukraine, and Kazakhstani commentators countering that the two countries are in the midst of 'a bad divorce'."
Globe identified three factors pushing Russia towards action in Kazakhstan, including: Kazakhstan moving in the same direction as Ukraine in terms of western influence; Russian fears of losing influence in Central Asia and the country becoming a bridge for "Islamist expansion northward into Russia".
Luckily, he also identified three "more compelling reasons" why Russia is unlikely to do so.
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The first is obvious – that Putin's forces are all tied up in Ukraine and probably will be for some time.
Second, he said that the number of ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan is declining rapidly – dropping from 38% of the population in 1989 to 18% today – making it a less attractive asset to Moscow.
Globe's final and "most important" reason was: "Moscow has a long history of making threats and even taking actions, such as stopping the flow of oil, only to have Kazakhstan’s leaders call, reassure Putin of their unquestioned support and the Kremlin then pulls back on its rhetoric and actions."
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- Vladimir Putin
- Russia Ukraine war
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