‘5,800 detained’ in week of protests in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan’s president’s office said on Sunday that police detained some 5,800 people during protests that developed into violence last week and prompted a Russian-led military coalition to send troops to the country.

Resident Kasim-Jomart Tokayev’s office said the situation in the country had stabilized and authorities had regained control of administrative buildings that were occupied by protesters and some were set on fire.

Russian TV station Mir-24 said sporadic gunshots were heard in the country’s largest city of Almaty on Sunday, but it was not clear whether they were warning of a shooting by law enforcement.

Mr Tokayev said on Friday that he had authorized the police and military to shoot to kill to restore order.


An armed riot police officer detains two protesters after clashes in Almaty (Vasily Krestyaninov/AP)

Almaty’s airport, which was taken over by protesters last week, remained closed but is expected to reopen on Monday.

Protests against the sharp increase in LPG fuel prices began on January 2 in western Kazakhstan and spread across the country, apparently reflecting discontent beyond fuel prices.

The same party has ruled Kazakhstan since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Any figures willing to oppose the government have either been suppressed, or co-opted, and financial hardship is widespread, despite the country’s vast reserves of oil and natural gas. Uranium and Minerals.

Mr Tokayev argues that the demonstrations were ignited by “terrorists” with foreign backing, although the protests have shown no clear leaders or organisations.

His office statement on Sunday said a “large number of foreign nationals” were involved in the detention, but gave no details.

It is not clear how many of those taken into custody remained in custody on Sunday.


Kazakhstan’s president authorizes security forces to shoot to kill those who took part in the unrest (Vasily Krestyaninov/AP)

The former head of Kazakhstan’s counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism agency has been arrested on charges of attempting to overthrow the government.

The arrest of Karim Massimov, which was announced on Saturday, came just days after Mr Tokayev was removed from his post as head of the National Security Committee.

No details were given about what Mr. Massimov was accused of doing, which would constitute such an attempt.

The National Security Committee, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB, is responsible for counter-intelligence, border guard service and counter-terrorism activities.

Officials say 26 protesters were killed by security forces and 16 law enforcement officers were killed in this week’s unrest.

At Tokayev’s request, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russia-led military alliance of six former Soviet states, authorized the sending of about 2,500 Russian troops as peacekeepers to Kazakhstan.

Some forces are guarding government facilities in the capital Nur-Sultan, which “made it possible to release parts of Kazakhstan’s law enforcement agencies and redeploy them to Almaty to participate in counter-terrorism operations”, a According to the statement from Mr. Tokayev’s office.


People pass through a burn in Almaty, Kazakhstan (Vasily Krestyaninov/AP)

In a sign that the demonstrations were deeply rooted in more than just fuel price hikes, many protesters shouted “Old Man Out” – a reference to Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was Kazakhstan’s independence president until he resigned in 2019, and Mr. Tokayev as his successor. ,

Mr Nazarbayev retained substantial power as head of the National Security Council, but Mr Tokayev replaced him as head of the council, possibly to pacify protesters amid this week’s unrest.

However, according to Kazakh news agency Kaztag, Nazarbayev’s adviser, Aido Ukibe, said on Sunday that this was done at the initiative of Mr. Nazarbayev.