It Takes Two to Tango..


But Threes A Crowd

Ever since the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Kazakhstan’s media has been rife with sensational announcements and controversial statements.

Even Toqaev openly expressed Kazakhstan’s position on the so-called LNR and DNR, while sitting next to his Russian counterpart at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum: 

“We do not recognize Taiwan, nor Kosovo, nor South Ossetia, not Abkhazia. This principle will also be applied to quasi-state associations, which, in our opinion, are Lugansk and Donetsk.”

Qassym-Jomart Toqaev 

Toqaev’s statement had international onlookers jumping at the chance to claim that Kazakhstan is breaking away from Russia.

However, Pyotr Vrublevsky’s statement regarding "killing as many Russians as possible" seemed to go under the radar. Yet it brought about reactions from both Kazakh and Russian authorities alike… and then some. 

Vrublevsky said this while giving an interview to a local Kazakh activist, Dias Kuzairov, on August 21. The Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not hesitate to hold a meeting between Deputy Minister Ermukhambet Konuspayev, and Vrublevsky on August 23. The Ministry expressed their dissatisfaction with Vrublevsky’s statement and the inappropriateness of such behaviour coming from a government representative. The Ministry, however, was not the first to react. 

On August 23, The Assembly of People of Kazakhstan condemned what they referred to as "unacceptable behaviour".

"We, the members of the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan, strongly condemn and consider unacceptable the statements of the Ambassador of Ukraine to the Republic of Kazakhstan, Mr Pyotr Vrublevsky, in an interview with one of the Kazakh bloggers. In our country, where peace and unity are the main principles of State policy and social consolidation, such statements are unacceptable, no matter from whom they come. Diplomacy should serve the ideals of peace and cooperation, and not incite hatred and enmity. The principles of friendship, mutual assistance and peace are unshakable for the united multi-ethnic people of Kazakhstan. It was they who helped us, even in the most difficult years of the formation of our Independence, to avoid interethnic conflicts and preserve the integrity of our country and our people. The language of hostility is alien to us, the propaganda of ethnic hatred in any of its manifestations is unacceptable and incomprehensible,”

The Assembly of People of Kazakhstan

Vladimir Bozhko, the representative of the Association of Russian, Slavic and Cossack organizations, also felt compelled to issue a statement demanding Vrublevsky be declared persona non grata.

 “On August 2, August 2022, a video with a statement by the Ambassador of Ukraine to Kazakhstan, Vrublevsky P, which he gave to one of the Kazakh bloggers, was distributed on social networks. In this video interview, the Ambassador of Ukraine stated, verbatim, that (Ukraine is trying to kill as many Russians as possible now, the less our children will have to kill. That's all). Such statements are not compatible with the status of an ambassador and diplomatic ethics. Such demarches encroach on peace and harmony in our country, where more than 120 ethnic groups, including Russians and Ukrainians, live in peace and friendship. In this regard, the ARSK requires the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan to declare the Ambassador of Ukraine Vrublevsky persona non grata. At the same time, we ask the Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Kazakhstan to verify the fact of distribution of this material with the statement of the Ambassador of Ukraine in social networks and, in accordance with the law, to bring to justice those involved in its production and publication”.

Vladimir Bozhko

Russia Responds

The Director of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Maria Zakharova, announced on 23 August that the “Russian Federation couldn’t help but notice” the statement made by Vrublevsky:

“We could not help but pay attention to the statements of the Ambassador of Ukraine to the Republic of Kazakhstan P. Vrublevsky, who publicly calls for killing "as many Russians as possible", not noticing that he is in a country where there are more than 3 million of them.

The statements of P. Vrublevsky once again prove the terrorist, anti-human nature of the Kyiv regime, especially against the background of the recent murder by the Ukrainian special services of the Russian journalist D.A. Dugina. It is impossible to imagine how an ambassador, a person who is called upon to strengthen bilateral relations, openly undermines interethnic harmony in the host country, calling for the destruction of citizens of this country on a national basis. The expressive silence on the part of Kyiv about these calls is very indicative, otherwise, it cannot be called an endorsement.

We are sure that in Nur-Sultan these statements of the Ukrainian ambassador will not remain without reaction. We know that he has already been summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic. As far as we also know, petitions have appeared on the Internet from citizens of Kazakhstan demanding the deportation of this "diplomat" who violated not only elementary diplomatic rules and ethics, including the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 but also article 174 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, according to which for "inciting social, national, tribal, racial, class or religious discord" is entitled to up to 7 years in prison.”

Maria Zakharova

Nonnya Beezwax..

On 5 September, Kazakh foreign ministry spokesman Aibek Smadiyarov announced that Vrublevsky apologized for his statement. On 8 September, the Russian news outlet TASS claimed he left due to "demands made by authorities".

This claim was later refuted, and it turned out that Vrublevsky reportedly went on holiday. He then returned on October 4. 

Russia didn’t hesitate to make their voice heard once more. Maria Zakharova announced that The Ambassador of Kazakhstan, Ermek Kosherbayev, was called in "to have a talk" at the Russian Foreign Ministry. The Russian Ministry also reiterated the criminal liability for “national discord”.

Aibek Smadiyarov

The Russian Foreign Minister's actions didn’t go unanswered. Kazakhstan responded with the same totality. Russian Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Alexey Borodavkin, was invited to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan to discuss Zakharova’s comments on October 6. The Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs dubbed the discussion between the diplomats "tough". Aibek Smadiyarov also announced that the tonality of Zakharova’s words is dissonant with the nature of Kazakh-Russian allied relations and that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was “perplexed” by their Russian counterpart’s assertion regarding criminal liability for Vrublevsky’s statement.

“The Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan also cannot understand what criminal responsibility the representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry is talking about, since the ambassador of Ukraine to Kazakhstan, according to the Vienna Convention, has diplomatic immunity.”

Aibek Smadiyarov

Smadiyarov added that The Ambassador of Ukraine has an undesirable status and a request had been made for the appointment of a new ambassador in Astana, to which the Ukrainian side responded with understanding and willingness to replace Vrublevsky.

The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, relieved Vrublevsky of his post on 18 October

Mr Dias

Image of Dias Kuzairov from a video on his Youtube channel

No concrete assumptions can be made about the purpose of the interview with Vrublevsky.

The interviewer, Dias Kuzairov, claimed that there were no hidden agendas. The local activist asserted that Vrublevsky was referring to the situation in Ukraine, not calling for the killing of Russians in Kazakhstan

But the local activist's provocative methods aimed at enhancing the status of the Kazakh language in Kazakhstan unfortunately make Dias's true intentions rather hazy.

In one instance he asserted,

"It's been like this for 30 years – we spoke Russian, gave everyone time to learn the state language. The time has come, 30 years of Independence, and we are no longer a colony of the Soviet Union. We want to receive services in the state Kazakh language".

Dias Kuzairov

According to local law, all public and non-public services are to be provided in the language they are requested in, while Kazakh is considered the only state language and Russian is used on par with it in state institutions.

More recently Dias received a five-day administrative arrest for assertively drawing an answer out of Russian citizens running from mobilization.

On September 27, he reportedly came to a restaurant holding an event for fleeing Russian citizens. Local entrepreneurs organized the event. One of them said that the event was intended to show Russian citizens the Kazakh people’s well-known hospitality. Mr Kuzairov used the moment to propose the question “Whose [land is] Crimea? Whose [land is] Pavlodar to unsuspecting Russian citizens. (Pavlodar is a city in northeastern Kazakhstan with a noticeable Russian population - 34.91%)  

There’s nothing wrong with advocating for what Dias believes in, but his tactics leave much to be desired. He, however, may just be a product of his environment that receives consistent threats from Russian propagandists along with government officials questioning Kazakhstan’s sovereignty. (See also)

Indeed, there have been cases where certain Kazakhstani citizens have even “called upon” Russia to “annex” the northern Oblast of Kazakhstan or dubbed Petropavlovsk, Kazakhstan “Russian Land”, explaining Dias’s confrontational behaviour. 

Get That Finger out of My Face!

Situations like these leave even the most seasoned diplomats flinging the medicine cabinet open in hopes of finding a pain reliever. Who is wrong or who is right is not even the crux of the matter, though it is easy to see that an old saying holds water here: “There are two sides to every story."

This case, however, has multiple perspectives. But there is only one extra one. The situation is domestic, thus warranting the involvement of those in the country and those directly involved in the situation, not those peeking over the picket fence.

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