Nursultan Nazarbayev
© REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Nursultan Nazarbayev
Key Russian ally Nursultan Nazarbayev, the long-time president of Kazakhstan, has handed in his resignation after almost 30 years in power.

"I have made the decision to end my tenure as president," 78-year-old Nazarbayev said in a special address to the nation on Tuesday. He then signed a decree stating that his presidential tenure will end on Wednesday live on air.

His duties will be performed by Senate Speaker Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, from Nazarbayev's Russia-friendly ruling party Nur Otan, until a new president is elected.

Nazarbayev had been the leader of Kazakhstan since 1990. He was on his fifth term when he resigned.

Nazarbayev will retain some of his other posts after the resignation, he said. He will remain as the head of Kazakhstan's security council, as well as the leader of the Nur Otan party.

Nazarbayev's acting replacement Tokayev has held various government posts, including those of foreign minister and prime minister, as well as having served as director-general of the UN office in Geneva.

Under Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan has become a key regional ally for Moscow, having established the Eurasian Trade Union together with Russia and Belarus. The union was later joined by Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.

Kazakhstan gained visibility in the international arena in recent years by hosting the Astana peace process for Syria, in which Russia, Turkey and Iran have been agreeing on joint steps to help stabilize war-torn Syria.