Rising fuels prices at the beginning of January ignited a wave of protests across Kazakhstan. To bring the violent protests under control, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev requested assistance from other countries in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). A CSTO peacekeeping force of nearly 2,000 soldiers, mostly Russian, were flown in and the protests quelled within a few days. There is very little independent reporting on what actually happened in the country in recent weeks, but it appears that the relatives of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev and their supporters have been removed from key economic and political leadership posts.
Kazakhstan’s economy is highly dependent on exports of crude oil, natural gas and products of other extractive industries. Notably, uranium mining has seen huge growth over the past decade, making the country currently the world’s largest producer and exporter of uranium. Indeed, over half of all global uranium exports have come from Kazakhstan in recent years. State-majority-owned Kazatomprom accounts for about half of the country’s uranium production. The rest of the country’s uranium production involves joint ventures with Russian, Chinese, Canadian, Japanese and French mining firms. Foreign investors have also played a major role in boosting Kazakhstan’s oil production. For example, Tengizchevroil, the country’s largest oil producer, is a joint venture of state-owned KazMunayGaz, Chevron and ExxonMobil.