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New Kazakh Leader Vows to Keep Friendly Ties With Russia

Kazakhstan’s new president has vowed to preserve a pro-Russian foreign policy as his arrival in Moscow signaled he does not plan to deviate from his predecessor’s course.

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who arrived in Moscow for his first official visit on Wednesday, became the oil-rich country’s interim president after longtime leader Nursultan Nazarbayev stepped down two weeks ago. Russia is the former Soviet republic’s largest trading partner.

“I’m pleased to be able to reaffirm the unbreakable bonds of friendship, alliance and strategic partnership between our countries,” Tokayev told the government-run Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper ahead of his visit.

He called Russian-Kazakh ties a “benchmark” of interstate relations, the Kommersant business publication reported.

At the same, Tokayev has promised to continue Nazarbayev’s plans introduced in 2017 to gradually switch the Kazakh alphabet from Cyrillic to Latin-based letters.

Although Russian is recognized as an official language in Kazakhstan, the switch was seen as a reflection of Kazakhstan’s wariness of Russia’s ambitions to maintain political influence in the region.

Several other Turkic nations, including Turkey and ex-Soviet Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, have also switched to Latin alphabets.

Reuters contributed reporting to this article.

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