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Kazakhstan: Security Service Shake-Up Sets Off Succession Speculation

Kazakh National Security Committee Chairman Nurtay Abykayev (standing) receives his marching orders from Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev during a meeting with the country’s intelligence agency on Dec. 25, 2015. Abykayev was replaced by Vladimir Zhumakanov, a career intelligence agent with more than three decades of service. (Photo: Kazakhstan Presidential Press Service)

A shake-up at the top of Kazakhstan’s intelligence agency has watchers of the country’s opaque elite speculating about preparations for political life after President Nursultan Nazarbayev. 
 
The replacement in late December of 68-year-old National Security Committee chairman Nurtay Abykayev is not expected to usher in a significant change of Kazakhstan’s political course. All signs point to the Nazarbayev family firming its grip over the key levers of power and a continuing reliance on repressive tactics as a way of keeping government critics in check.
 
Abykayev is being substituted at the top of the intelligence agency, which is widely known by its Russian acronym KNB, by Vladimir Zhumakanov, a career intelligence officer with over three decades of service. Also on December 25, Samat Abish, Nazarbayev’s 37-year-old nephew and the son of the president’s businessman brother, Bolat Nazarbayev, was promoted to first deputy KNB chief, filling the spot formerly occupied by Zhumakanov.
 

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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.

Kazakhstan: Security Service Shake-Up Sets Off Succession Speculation

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