Sunday 1/16/22
RIOTS

Over 4,400 reported detained, 40 dead in Kazakhstan unrest

A Russian-led military alliance of former Soviet states, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), has sent in paratroopers as part of a peacekeeping force

HANDOUT - 07 January 2022, Kazakhstan, Nur-Sultan: Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev chairs a meeting of the counter-terrorism command in Nur-Sultan. Photo: -/Kazakh Presidency/dpa - ATTENTION: editorial use only and only if the credit mentioned above is referenced in full.
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev chairs a meeting of the counter-terrorism command in Nur-Sultan. Photo: Kazakh Presidency.

More than 4,400 people have been detained and over 40 have been killed during anti-government unrest in Kazakhstan, according to official figures cited by state media on Saturday.

The number of dead apparently includes members of the security forces.

Almaty, Kazakhstan's biggest city and economic hub, has now seen days of rioting, including the torching of government buildings and mass looting.

It is feared that the true number of deaths could be much higher than those reported by officials.

The president of the authoritarian republic, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, ordered a day of national mourning to remember "the many victims of the tragic events in some parts of the country," according to state media.

The largest wave of protests in years was triggered by resentment over significantly increased fuel prices at petrol stations in the oil and gas-rich former Soviet republic with more than 18 million inhabitants. They turned into anti-government protests.

In response, Tokayev dismissed the government before the military intervened in the city of Almaty late Wednesday.

Paratroopers sent by Russia

A Russian-led military alliance of former Soviet states, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), has sent in paratroopers as part of a peacekeeping force.

In total, some 2,500 members of security forces from abroad are to be sent to Kazakhstan, the CSTO alliance said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a Saturday video call with Tokayev, supported his suggestion of a CSTO summit in the coming days to discuss the unrest. Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, who has cracked down on anti-government unrest in his own country, also talked to Tokayev on Saturday.

Tokayev issued a shoot-to-kill order on Friday against protesters threatening his authoritarian government's survival.

A spokesperson for Kazakhstan's former long-time ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev confirmed Saturday that he is still in the country, despite the riots that have roiled the Central Asian ex-Soviet republic over the past days.

"The leader of the nation is in Kazakhstan's capital Nur-Sultan," said Adjos Ukibay on Twitter.

Strong man in the shadow

Rumors had previously circulated saying the 81-year-old had left the country after his successor, President Tokayev, stripped him of his post as head of the country's influential security council.

Nazarbayev was in direct communication with Tokayev, according to Ukibay.

The ex-president, who resigned in 2019, is still considered the most powerful figure in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan's secret service announced Saturday that its former chief, Karim Massimov, had been arrested on suspicion of high treason.

Tokayev had dismissed Massimov on Thursday, accusing the security agencies of not having detected "terrorists" allegedly controlled from abroad who were now involved in the riots in advance.

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