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Nazarbaev Calls U.S., EU Sanctions On Russia 'Barbaric'

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev (file photo)
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev (file photo)

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev says U.S. and EU sanctions against Russia are "barbaric" and has called for the "de-dollarization" of the Central Asian country's economy.

Speaking at a cabinet session on February 11, Nazarbaev said he was confident Russia "will manage to get out of the economic hardships with honor -- and we will do so as well."

The remarks were a shift in tone for Nazarbaev, who has issued veiled criticism of Moscow in recent months over the repercussions that its interference in Ukraine has had upon Kazakhstan and other Russian trade partners in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

Nazarbaev said the Russian ruble's steep decline during the past year had hurt Kazakh companies.

But he indirectly blamed the West, saying the situation was caused by "external factors" and had nothing to do with Kazakhstan's membership of the EEU.

Nazarbaev called on the national bank "to de-dollarize the Kazakh economy" and urged citizens and companies to exchange their U.S. dollars for Kazakh tenge.

The tenge hit a new low on February 9 at 186 tenges to the U.S. dollar.

That led to another protest by homeowners in Almaty -- Kazakhstan's largest city -- who demanded that their mortgages be revised.

Nazarbaev also called for belt-tightening measures, saying Kazakhs should stop wasting money on parties and celebrations and urging them to buy domestic goods instead of imports.

He added that the state budget for 2015 will need to be revised and many projects will be cut, calling on the government to cut expenditures by 10 percent.

Nazarbaev also said that sums allocated for the construction of new subway stations in Almaty and for hosting international sports events will be reduced.

He did not specify if that would affect Kazakhstan's bid for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, the site of which will be selected on July 31.

Nazarbaev also called on citizens "not to follow rumors" but rather to trust government officials.

"I do not have any reasons not to trust the national bank," Nazarbaev said, adding that "the government will inform citizens about any upcoming hardships."

Nazarbaev promised people that their bank savings will be insured against any possible devaluations.

Nazarbaev's statements seem to be an attempt to head off possible demonstrations similar to protests after the national bank devalued the tenge in February 2014, which weakened the currency by 18 percent, and to put blame for the country's economic woes on outside forces.

With reporting by KazTAG and Kazinform
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