Kazakh radio host fired after invoking 'Uncle' Putin and suggesting possible invasion

ALMATY, March 28 (Reuters) - A Kazakh radio station fired one of its presenters on Monday after she said "we will call in Uncle Vova if you talk too much" in a heated Facebook debate, a reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the idea that Russia could invade.

Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic, shares the world's second-longest land border with Russia and has close economic and political ties with Moscow, being a member of Russian-led trade and military blocs.

It has a large ethnic Russian population and the war in Ukraine has sparked heated online debates between supporters of both sides.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

After a public outcry, the Europa Plus Kazakhstan radio station distanced itself from host Lyubov Panova's Facebook comments and then, on Monday, said that her contract had been terminated.

Panova did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

"Vova" is an affectionate diminutive of "Vladimir" and Panova made the comment in response to another Facebook user's criticism of support for Russia and Putin.

Deputy Prosecutor General Bulat Dembayev issued a statement warning social media users against making comments that call for Kazakhs to join the Russia-Ukraine conflict or incite ethnic hatred.

"Moreover, some social network users, including Kazakh citizens ... publish separatist slogans that refer to the territorial integrity of our country," he said, warning that such actions constitute a crime.

Kazakhstan has avoided criticising Russia's invasion of Ukraine, although President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said this month that all countries must strictly adhere to the norms and principles of the UN Charter.

And the deputy foreign minister told a German newspaper that companies leaving Russia due to the war in Ukraine were welcome to move production to Kazakhstan, saying Kazakhstan would not want to be on the wrong side of a new "iron curtain". read more

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a "special military operation" to disarm and "denazify" its neighbour. Kyiv and the West consider this a pretext for an unprovoked invasion.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Nick Macfie

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.