Kazakhstan death toll spikes as 164 reported killed and thousands detained in violent protests

The bloody protests that have erupted in the Central Asian country in recent days have seen the government resign and a state of emergency declared as troops from a Russian-led military coalition have been deployed to help contain the unrest.

The death toll – a significant increase from Friday’s 44 – was announced on Sunday on state TV channel Khabar 24, citing the Kazakh Health Ministry.

The unrest is the biggest challenge yet to the rule of authoritarian Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, with initial public anger over high fuel prices fueling discontent with the government over corruption, living standards, poverty and unemployment in the oil-rich country. The Soviet Nation, Human Rights Organizations Report.

On Sunday, state media in Kazakhstan, citing the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan, reported that at least 5135 people have been arrested so far due to their alleged participation in the Kazakhstan protests. Meanwhile, the police opened about 125 criminal cases related to violent incidents, including charges of violence, murder and theft, state media reported.

CNN has not been able to verify the government’s allegations.

The organization’s commander, General Andrei Serdyukov, said at a press briefing on Sunday that “peacekeeping” forces from the CSTO member states have fully deployed in Kazakhstan and are now fully operating inside the country.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization – which includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – deployed troops after a plea from Tokayev for help from the coalition after unrest erupted across Kazakhstan on Wednesday, including in the largest city, Almaty.
Kazakh law enforcement officers stand at a barricade during a protest sparked by an increase in fuel prices in Almaty on January 5.

Serdyukov said the troops “are carrying out tasks to protect important military, state and social facilities in the city of Almaty and the area adjacent to it”, and will remain in the country until “the situation is fully stabilized.”

High-ranking officials, including the former head of the Kazakh National Security Committee Karim Masimov, have been detained on suspicion of treason, state media reports.

The country’s central bank has also temporarily suspended currency exchange in what it says is necessary for both the money changers themselves, their employees and their customers, Khabar24 reported.

The banking system will be restored in stages depending on the priority of the social importance of services to the population and businesses, as reported by Khabar 24. The system for repayment of loans, pensions, bonuses and salaries is expected to resume work as usual across the country from Monday.

In a statement on Saturday, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said the EU had made it clear that it “strongly condemns” the rampant violence in Kazakhstan and that external military support “must respect the sovereignty and independence” of the country.

“We deeply regret the loss of victims and strongly condemn the widespread acts of violence,” he said.

“Foreign military support should respect the sovereignty and independence of Kazakhstan as well as the fundamental rights of all citizens,” he added.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis prayed for the victims of the violent protests in Kazakhstan in recent days, he said Sunday after the weekly Angel Prayer.

CNN’s Radina Zhigova, Zahratullah, Arnaud Siad, Sharon Braithwaite and Olga Pavlova contributed to this report.

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