Coup or Provocation?

In one of the more mysterious stories of the year, Kazakh security agents arrested 22 people in November on charges of plotting to seize Eastern Kazakhstan province and establish a breakaway Russian republic there.

The Russians make up more than 85 percent of the province's population, and 12 of those arrested including their leader were Russian citizens. While Moscow commentators reported the Kazakhstan authorities harges at face value, they raised questions about the government' motives and timing.

Izvestia described the 270 Kalashnikov rounds, 14 Molotov cocktails, and one hand grenade that were seized as a modest arsenal for a coup.

Semyon Novoprudsky of Izvestia called the case a provocation.People in Kazakhstan will think that Russia wants to meddle in its internal affairs, he explains. eople in Russia will think that Kazakhstan is oppressing Russians.

And there is always the Western angle: Sergei Kozlov suggested in Nezavisimaya Gazeta that with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev preparing to visit the U.S.his administration may have timed the arrests to please Washington.