Kazakhstan's Nazarbayev tells Putin he 'understands' Moscow's cause in Ukraine

ALMATY (Reuters) - Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev told Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday that he understands the logic of Russia's actions in Ukraine. Putin has backed breakaway moves by Ukraine's Russian-majority region of Crimea, with Russian forces seizing control of military and security installations, since Ukraine's pro-Russian president fell to a tide of popular unrest last month. "Nursultan Nazarbayev stressed that Kazakhstan, as a strategic partner, treats with understanding the position of Russia, defending the rights of national minorities in Ukraine, as well as its security interests," Nazarbayev's press service quoted him as saying in a telephone conversation with Putin. Nazarbayev, whose Central Asian state has the second largest post-Soviet economy, is a close ally of Putin and backs his plan for integration of old Soviet republics. Together with Belarus, Kazakhstan is in a Moscow-dominated customs union. The decision in November of then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich to make a policy U-turn, dropping an association pact with the European Union in favor of closer relations with Moscow, triggered months of mass protests that eventually toppled him. A pro-Western government has taken office in Kiev. (Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov, editing by Jason Bush and Mark Heinrich)