Kazakhstan says 164 people were killed in week of unrest | Kazakhstan

Kazakh authorities said 164 people were killed in the unrest that rocked the country last week, including three children.

The health ministry said 103 of the deaths had occurred in Almaty, the country’s largest city and the center of the violence.

After the worst violence in independent Kazakhstan’s 30-year history, the situation in Almaty and other cities was largely calm on Sunday. Authorities said they had regained control and life would slowly return to normal in the coming days. In Almaty, authorities announced that some public transport would resume on Monday.

However, Deputy Defense Minister Sultan Gamaletdinov said on Sunday that a “counterterrorism operation” was still ongoing and would continue “until the terrorists were completely eliminated and constitutional order was restored in the Republic of Kazakhstan “.

The number of people detained by the police continues to rise, with the office of the President of Kazakhstan giving the latest figure of 5,800.

Protests began last Sunday in the west of the country against a sharp rise in fuel prices, and quickly spread to Almaty and other cities, driven by years of pent-up frustration. Heavy clashes began on Wednesday, with groups of men storming the airport and storming government buildings. Many on the ground reported that organized and violent groups appeared to take control of the protest.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev gave an uncompromising speech on Friday in which he said he ordered law enforcement to shoot to kill, without warning, and said Almaty had been attacked by a group of 20,000 ” bandits and terrorists “.

Erzhan Kazykhan, presidential adviser, made a video address in English on Sunday, accusing some in the West of having misinterpreted events. “Unfortunately, peaceful protests in Almaty and other areas have been hijacked by local and external perpetrators and terrorist groups speaking foreign languages,” he said.

Authorities have yet to release any evidence demonstrating the involvement of “terrorists” or foreign forces. Local television broadcast a video confession on Sunday from a battered man, who said he was paid to travel from neighboring Kyrgyzstan and participate in violence. However, viewers in Kyrgyzstan quickly identified him as a well-known jazz musician who toured Kazakhstan frequently and expressed doubts that he could have been a rioter.

Reports of possible internal struggles within the Kazakh elites at the origin of some of the violence seem more plausible. Karim Masimov, the head of the security services and former prime minister, was first dismissed from his post and then arrested within a week on suspicion of treason. No details have been released on what Masimov allegedly did.

Some sources have pointed to recent disagreements between Tokayev and figures close to his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev, who ruled the country from independence from 1991 to 2019 and chose Tokayev as his successor. Nazarbayev holds the honorary title of head of the nation and the country’s capital was renamed Nure-Sultan in his honor in 2019. He was removed from his post by Tokayev as head of the National Security Council this week.

Many demonstrators chanted “old man, get out!” In reference to Nazarbayev, while in the town of Taldykorgan, a statue of him was shot. The anger focused on the considerable wealth amassed by his family and his continued influence in the political arena.

Nazarbayev’s press secretary claimed the former president was in the country and supported Tokayev, but Nazarbayev has not spoken or appeared in public since the unrest began.

Tokayev on Wednesday called on a Russian-led military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to bring troops into the country. This was agreed to within hours, and a force numbering around 2,500, mostly Russian, is operating in the country. Tokayev, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of the other CSTO countries – Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Tajikistan – are due to hold a video conference on Monday.

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