A Kazakh court on Tuesday sentenced two people for "separatist activities", following a wave of arrests of pro-Moscow separatists in the vast Central Asian state that borders Russia.

Kazakhstan, a Russia ally, has been unnerved by Moscow's Ukraine offensive.

"In February 2024, two people called online for a referendum to separate the eastern Kazakh region from the Republic of Kazakhstan," regional prosecutors said in a statement.

"They called for the violent capture of territory in case the referendum fell through," prosecutors said, adding that the two accused had been sentenced to "five years in prison for calling for a coup and for separatist activities".

Kazakhstan is an economic, political and military ally of Russia, with which it shares a 7,500-kilometre (4,660-mile) border.


But the country's leadership takes a measured view of the Ukraine-Russia conflict and is keen to maintain good ties with the West.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 revived concern about separatism within Kazakhstan, which has a large ethnic-Russian minority in the north and east.

Russian pundits have fomented these fears, warning that Kazakhstan could become a target for Kremlin expansionism.

Three million of Kazakhstan's 20 million inhabitants are ethnic Russians.

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