Staunton, May 23 – The Kazakhstan authorities have brought criminal charges against Aleksandr Belov, the lead of “The Russians” national movement for recruiting and training ethnic Kazakh nationalists as part of a plan to destabilize the political system in that Central Asian republic.
Belov’s alleged actions, interesting as they are in their own right, are an important indication of what may be a tactic Russians have employed more generally: the recruitment not of those who are ideologically the closest but rather of those who would be thought to be their natural opponents.
Indeed, such an approach harks back to Soviet times when KGB officers using a false flag approach or open intimidation recruited members of national movements in the non-Russian republics to monitor them and when necessary to discredit their activities either by pushing them toward more radical action or by revealing their links with Moscow.
Kazakhstan prosecutors have charged Aleksandr Belov (Plotkin), an extreme Russian nationalist who has been the subject of two extremism cases in the Russian Federation in recent years, with inciting national extremism by working with Zhanbolat Mamay, a Kazakh nationalist, to recruit and train Kazakh nationalists in Kyrgyzstan to oppose Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The recruitment effort reportedly began in February 2012 when Belov met with representatives of Slavic and Kazakh activists opposed to Nazarbayev and called for organizing a training base in Kyrgyzstan. A month later, he conducted training there promoting the idea of “Kazakhstan for the [ethnic] Kazakhs” despite the fact that he is a Russian.
And then in November 2012, Belov dispatched two more Russian nationalists, Pyotr Miloserdov and Aleksandr Averin to Almaty to meet with these groups and to call on them to stage public protests and spark inter-ethnic conflicts in order to destabilize the domestic situation in Kazakhstan.
Investigators say Belov worked with Zhanbolat Mamay, a member of the Kazakhstan Peoples Front in an operation called “Angry Kazakh.” Belov has not denied the meetings but he rejects the idea that there was any operation with that name. He suggested that he is being charged because of his ties with opposition groups.
It is of course possible that the entire case has been fabricated or exaggerated by Kazakhstan officials in order to discredit the opposition there. After all, what better way to undermine such a movement than by suggesting it is linked with or perhaps even under the control of those who are its ostensible enemies.
But given that Belov does not deny meeting with the Kazakh nationalists, it seems more likely that this was a real operation directed against Nazarbayev and that the public announcement now of these charges is intended to send a message less to Kazakhs than to Moscow about the risks Russians face in engaging in such activities.