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Kazakh Lawmaker Says Astana Won’t Extradite Suspects in Sadyqov Case

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Kazakh Lawmaker Says Astana Won’t Extradite Suspects in Sadyqov Case

The Kazakhstan-Ukraine extradition treaty provides for refusal to extradite a country’s own citizens, but does obligate one side, if requested by the other, to pursue prosecution itself.

Kazakh Lawmaker Says Astana Won’t Extradite Suspects in Sadyqov Case
Credit: Pixabay

In comments to journalists on the sidelines of the Kazakh Senate on June 27, the body’s chairman, Maulen Ashimbaev, said that Kazakhstan would not extradite suspects in the attempted murder of Aidos Sadyqov to Ukraine and characterized any allegations of government involvement or interest as “provocation.”

Sadyqov, a noted critic of the Kazakh government, was shot in the head on June 18 in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Authorities in Ukraine quickly identified two suspects – Kazakh nationals Altai Zhaqanbaev and Meiram Qarataev – but they’d reportedly already returned to Kazakhstan.

As reported by, Ashimbaev said, “In accordance with the laws of our country, our republic provides priority to the rights of our citizens. Therefore, in such situations, our country, in accordance with the laws, does not extradite Kazakhstani citizens.”

He added that this policy not specific to this case, “but the general principle is: Kazakhstan does not extradite its citizens to other states.”

Earlier, Kazakh authorities said they were cooperating with Ukrainian law enforcement. On June 22, one of the suspects – Zhaqanbaev – reportedly turned himself in to authorities in Kazakhstan. Earlier this week, Kazakh Deputy Interior Minister Marat Qozhaev told RFE/RL that Kazakhstan would “proceed in accordance with the law” if Ukrainian authorities made an extradition request.

In 2019, Kazakhstan and Ukraine settled an extradition treaty. While the treaty lays out procedures for extradition of wanted persons in each state, it also provides grounds for refusal of extradition of a country’s own citizens. But in such a case, the treaty obligates Kazakhstan to prosecute the wanted individuals itself or enforce a Ukrainian court’s judgment (assuming one has been arrived at), if requested to do so by Ukraine. 

In his comments, Ashimbaev also pushed back on those who suggest the Kazakhstan government was interested in Sadyqov’s murder.

“The Prosecutor General’s Office of our country has joined the investigation, [they are] in touch with colleagues from Ukraine and we are providing all the necessary assistance,” he said. “And in this situation, any statements that Kazakhstan was interested in eliminating the journalist are completely inconsistent with reality and are direct provocations in order to involve Kazakhstan in some kind of geopolitical games.”

While it seems unlikely at this juncture that Kazakhstan will extradite the suspects to Ukraine to be tried, it’s less clear what Astana will do instead. For the time being, Kazakh authorities say they are cooperating with Ukrainian law enforcement and Kyiv has not complained about a lack of cooperation. The investigation in Ukraine is ongoing, with many details not yet known publicly.

As Ashimbaev’s comments make clear, Kazakhstan’s authorities are sensitive to any hint of an accusation that the government had a hand in what appears to have been a targeted assassination attempt. Defeating that presumption will necessitate taking the case seriously within Kazakhstan and sorting out the who and why of how an exile Kazakh government critic was shot in Ukraine.

Unfortunately for Ashimbaev, by fault of geography and history, Kazakhstan is already involved in the geopolitical games of the day. This case is merely an additional landmine added to the existing complex playing field.