Kazakhs increasingly wary of Russia's belligerence - poll

(Reuters) - The number of Kazakhs who believe neighbouring Russia may invade the former Soviet republic has doubled over the past six months as the war in Ukraine continues, an opinion poll by Kazakh researchers showed on Wednesday.

The Central Asian nation of 20 million has close historical, economic and security ties with Moscow, but has maintained neutrality in the Ukrainian conflict, refusing to recognise Russia's annexation of parts of Ukraine's territory.

According to the poll of 1,100 respondents, carried out by non-government organisations MediaNet and PaperLab between May 3 and 12, almost 60% are also neutral with regards to the war, 12.8% support Russia and 21.1% support Ukraine, figures similar to those produced by a similar poll last December.

However, the number of people who think Russia may also invade Kazakhstan has risen to 15% from 8.3% in the previous poll.

Nearly a third of respondents said their perception of Russia had worsened because of the war, over a half said it had not changed and only 4.7% said it had improved.

Kazakhstan is home to about 3 million ethnic Russians and shares the world's longest continuous land border with Russia. Astana also has close ties with China, another giant neighbour, and the West, which has invested hundreds of billions of dollars into its oil and gas industry.

(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Nick Macfie)