What’s happening: Authorities announced Saturday that powerful intelligence chief Karim Massimov — a close ally of former dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev — had been arrested on suspicion of treason. Nazarbayev has himself vanished from view after being ousted last Wednesday from his role as head of the security council.
The backstory: Nazarbayev ruled Kazakhstan from independence in 1990 through 2019, when he handed the presidency to Tokayev but continued as security council chief and the apparent power behind the throne. Multiple members of Nazerbayev’s family have become billionaires due to the family’s control of much of the oil-rich country’s economy.
- The former president’s spokesman on Saturday denied claims that the 81-year-old and his family had fled the country. Nazarbayev, the spokesman claimed, is in regular touch with Tokayev and continues to support him.
- But the purge of Nazarbayev loyalists since last Wednesday signals there is a battle underway within the Kazakh elite.