Russian leader Vladimir Putin held private talks with the former president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed on Dec. 20.
Kazakh media reported that the meeting with Russia's dictator took place on Dec. 19 and was initiated by Nazarbayev.
According to UlysMedia's undisclosed sources, Kazakhstan's former leader sought Putin's support in connection to the prosecution of Samat Abish, formerly an influential figure in Kazakh politics and Nazarbayev's nephew.
Abish is under criminal investigation in Kazakhstan over his supposed role in the Kazakhstan January 2022 protests.
The Central Asian country's first president between 1991 and 2019, Nazarbayev ruled Kazakhstan as an authoritarian leader, backed by a pervasive personality cult. He lost political influence during the bloody January 2022 unrests.
When Nazarbayev passed the presidential office to his successor Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, he maintained an extensive influence as the security council chairman and "elbasy," or the "leader of the nation."
Dissatisfaction with Nazarbayev's continued role and economic situation sparked popular protests last January, resulting in the deaths of 238 civilians.
An intervention by the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) helped to quell the protests.
Following the unrest, Nazarbayev was ousted as the security council chairman and lost his leader title, which lifted the legal immunity provided to the former president's relatives.
As a result, people from Nazarbayev's inner circle lost their positions in the state structure, with some facing prosecution and prison sentences.
Despite Russia's role in suppressing the January unrests and the long-term partnership between the two countries, Tokayev refused to support Moscow's aggression against Ukraine.
Kazakhstan's president also seeks to balance out Russia's influence by building stronger ties with the West.