Heading a governmental delegation to Kazakhstan on December 22-23, Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov endorsed President Nursultan Nazarbaev’s bid for reelection in the January 10 balloting. While disclaiming any intent to interfere in Kazakhstan’s internal politics, Primakov declared that “we do have our preferences…. Russia and the Russian leadership regard Nazarbaev with great sympathy, and support his policies toward Russia and the CIS.” The visit–a stopover on the Primakov delegation’s return from India–appeared designed primarily to demonstrate political support for Nazarbaev.
The sides agreed to refrain from demarcating their mutual border in order to best facilitate cross-border contacts. This gesture is primarily intended for the Russian population in northern Kazakhstan. The president’s electoral campaign is focusing on that region in an apparent effort to garner the ethnic Russian vote for Nazarbaev.
On the eve of Primakov’s visit, Nazarbaev and Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbaev had announced their intention to seek resolution of three long-pending issues. First, the promised delivery of twenty-eight Sukhoy-27 tactical assault planes to Kazakhstan, in partial compensation for its earlier handover of strategic bombers to Russia. Second, equalization of the treatment of Kazakh and Russian cargoes on Russian railroads, as mandated by the unhonored agreements on the customs union. And third, expansion of the Atyrau-Samara oil pipeline in order to increase somewhat the modest export of Kazakh oil to Europe via Russia. Primakov’s visit did not produce clarifications on these issues (Kazakh Television, Itar-Tass and other Russian agencies, December 22, 23).
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