: Reuters: Kazakh leader evokes Ukraine as land protests spread

13:54 May. 2, 2016

Reuters: Kazakh leader evokes Ukraine as land protests spread

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev speaks to the media with German Chancellor  on February 3, 2009 (Getty Images)

During Unity Day celebrations, Nazarbayev highlighted  Ukrainian protests at Maidan,  as a result of the lack of unity

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, facing a growing wave of protests against planned changes to land ownership, evoked the image of war-torn Ukraine  as he called for national unity.

Speaking at an event in Almaty to mark the annual May 1 Unity Day celebrations, Nazarbayev highlighted Ukraine, where street protests in 2013-2014 toppled the government of Viktor Yanukovich, as an example of what could happen in the absence of unity.

"Ukraine, the second-biggest ex-Soviet state, today has an economy which is half the size of Kazakhstan's," the president said. "Because there is no unity, no sense of purpose, no tasks are being solved, (people) are busy with other things: fighting, killing, brawling."

Read also Mr Blair denies making any personal profit from his deals with Kazakhstan

Though relatively small, the rallies are a challenge to Nazarbayev, 75, who has run the oil-rich Central Asian nation since 1989 with little tolerance for dissent since 1989.

The collapse in global oil prices has hurt the economy and the government's fiscal position, prompting Fitch Ratings to cut the country's long-term sovereign debt ratings on April 29.

Read also David J. Kramer: The best ways to help Ukraine

The protests which are entering their second week, were sparked by fears that land reforms will allow foreigners to take over farmland, although some analysts say many Kazakhs have attended the demonstrations to express their general discontent.

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