It has been a turbulent year in Russian-Kazakh relations. Russia’s oil rich neighbour, which straddles central Asia and eastern Europe, started the year by asking for Russia’s help in restoring stability after protests erupted in its major cities.

But Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has affected their relationship. The president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, has refused to recognise Russia’s annexation of territory in Ukraine, distancing his country from its long-time ally.

Russia, now isolated from the west, needs friends like never before. But repeatedly, we have seen its public figures hurt Russia’s own interests with loose talk that negatively resonates in Kazakhstan.

Two days after Tokayev won reelection in November, Russian political expert Dmitry Drobnitsky went on a popular talk show and described Kazakhstan in the same terms the Russian establishment uses to justify the war in Ukraine: “There, too, Nazi sentiments can begin, as in Ukraine. And we have a border [with Kazakhstan], and there are many Russians there.”