Nursultan Nazarbayev, who appeared in a video address for the first time since unrest rocked Kazakhstan this month, has also rejected rumours that he was abroad.

Nazarbayev has denied that there were tensions between him and his successor, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
Nazarbayev has denied that there were tensions between him and his successor, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. (Reuters)

Former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has appeared for the first time since unrest rocked the former Soviet republic this month, saying in a video address there was no conflict among the country's elite.

Nazarbayev, 81, who ruled the oil-producing country for three decades, said in Tuesday's video he had remained in Kazakhstan during the worst violence in the country's post-Soviet history.

"I handed over my (presidential) powers to President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in 2019 and have since been a pensioner, and I am now (living) in retirement in Kazakhstan's capital and have not gone anywhere," he said.

Nazarbayev, who ran Kazakhstan for 29 years after it gained independence and kept an influential post after stepping down as president in 2019, also denied that there were tensions between him and his hand-picked successor, Tokayev.

"There is no conflict or confrontation within the elite," Nazarbayev said, speaking two weeks after the protests began. "Rumours about this are completely unfounded."

Nazarbayev's sudden disappearance during the protests and the detention of former state security chief Karim Masimov on treason charges prompted talk of a rift between the former president and his successor.

READ MORE: How will Western investments fare in Kazakhstan after the unrest?

Deadly unrest

At the peak of the unrest, Tokayev said he was taking over as chairman of the National Security Council, a position through which Nazarbayev had continued to wield sweeping powers after resigning as president.

The move was seen by some as an attempt to end the former leader’s patronage that had ignited tensions among Kazakhstan's ruling elite, further fuelling the unrest.

Protests in Kazakhstan, an oil and gas-rich nation of 19 million in Central Asia, began on January 2 in a small western town over the near-doubling of fuel prices.

But they quickly spread across the vast country, growing into a general protest against the government and turning into violent riots that killed over 220 people. 

More than 4,300 people were injured, and thousands have been detained by authorities.

Once security forces restored control, Tokayev said he wanted those who had made their fortunes under Nazarbayev's rule to share their wealth with the public.

Since January 15, all three of Nazarbayev's sons-in-law have resigned from senior positions at state companies and a business lobby group.

And Tokayev has sacked the ex-president's nephew from the number two position at the National Security Committee.

READ MORE: Kazakhstan blames 'foreign terrorists' for deadly unrest

Source: TRTWorld and agencies