One of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's closest associates has died in a Swiss medical clinic at the age of 77, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.
Nazarbaev reportedly expressed his condolences to the family of Vladimir Ni, an ethnic Korean, who died after a long illness on September 9. No other details were given.
The general director of the KHOZU corporation, Ni began working as Nazarbaev's aide in 1985 when Nazarbaev was prime minister of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic.
After the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991, Ni became deputy chief of Nazarbaev's Presidential Office and in 1996 was appointed chief of Nazarbaev's presidential apparatus.
Ni was considered one of the most influential figures in Kazakhstan's political and economic elite and the man with the closest personal ties to Nazarbaev.
In 2007, tapes of recorded conversations between two men whose voices sounded like those of Ni and Nazarbaev were circulated on the Internet.
The two men discussed how much government money should be given to support the pro-presidential Nur-Otan party. Ni neither confirmed nor denied that the tapes were authentic.