Kazakhstan says 164 killed in week of protests over sharp jump in fuel prices, other grievances

The Kazakh Ministry of Health said Sunday that 164 people have been killed in the protests that have rocked the country over the past week.

The numbers reported by the state news channel “Khabar 24” are a significant increase from the previous numbers. It is not clear whether the deaths refer to civilians only or whether deaths due to law enforcement are included. Kazakh authorities said earlier on Sunday that 16 members of the police or national guard had been killed. The authorities earlier put the civilian death toll at 26.

Most of the dead – 103 – were in Almaty, the country’s largest city, the ministry said, where protesters have seized and set government buildings on fire. The country’s Ombudsman for Children’s Rights said three of the dead were minors, including a four-year-old girl.

The ministry earlier stated that more than 2,200 people had sought treatment for the protests’ injuries, and the Interior Ministry said about 1,300 security officers had been injured.

Kazakhstan’s president’s office said police arrested about 5,800 people during protests that turned violent last week and prompted a Russian-led military coalition to send troops into the country.

The office of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said, on Sunday, that the situation has stabilized and that the authorities have regained control of the administrative buildings occupied by the demonstrators, with some sites burning.

This photo taken on Saturday shows destroyed automated banking machines in central Almaty, after violence erupted in the wake of protests over fuel price hikes. (Alexander Bogdanov/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian television station Mir 24 said sporadic gunfire was heard in Almaty on Sunday, but it was not clear whether it was warning shots by law enforcement agencies. On Friday, Tokayev said he had allowed the police and army to shoot to kill to restore order.

Almaty airport, which was seized by protesters last week, remained closed but is expected to resume work on Monday.

Protests over the sharp rise in LPG fuel prices began in the west of the country on January 2 and spread across Kazakhstan, apparently reflecting the discontent that has gone beyond fuel prices.

The same party has ruled Kazakhstan since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Any figures aspiring to oppose the government have been suppressed, marginalized or co-opted – and financial hardship looms despite Kazakhstan’s vast reserves of oil, natural gas, uranium and uranium. metals.

Tokayev asserts that the demonstrations were ignited by “terrorists” with foreign support, although the protests did not show any clear leaders or organization. The statement issued by his office on Sunday said the arrests included “a large number of foreigners,” but gave no details.

It was not clear how many remained in custody on Sunday.

The arrest of the former head of the security service

The former head of Kazakhstan’s counterintelligence and counterterrorism service has been arrested on charges of trying to overthrow the government. Karim Masimov’s arrest, which was announced on Saturday, came just days after Tokayev removed him from chairing the National Security Committee.

No details were provided about what Massimov allegedly did that would constitute an attempt to overthrow the government. The National Security Committee, the Soviet-era successor to the KGB, is responsible for counterintelligence, the Border Patrol Service, and anti-terror activities.

Russian citizens walk toward an airport to board a Russian Aerospace Forces plane leaving Almaty for Moscow on Sunday. (Vassily Kristianinov/The Associated Press)

At Tokayev’s request, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russian-led military coalition of six ex-Soviet states, allowed about 2,500 mostly Russian soldiers to be sent to Kazakhstan as peacekeepers.

And some force is guarding government facilities in the capital, Nur-Sultan, which “made it possible to release part of the Kazakh law enforcement forces and redeploy them to Almaty to participate in the anti-terror operation,” according to the Kazakh foreign minister. Statement from Tokayev’s office.

In a sign that the demonstrations were more deeply rooted than just high fuel prices, many protesters shouted “Old man,” referring to Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was president from Kazakhstan’s independence until he resigned in 2019 and named Tokayev as his successor.

Nazarbayev retained significant power as head of the National Security Council. But Tokayev replaced him as head of the council amid this week’s turmoil. Perhaps a concession intended to appease the protesters. However, Nazarbayev’s advisor, Aido Okebay, said on Sunday that this was done on Nazarbayev’s initiative, according to KazTag news agency.

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