Kazakh president steps up purge of security agency after mass unrest


  • Kazakh leader Tokayev sacks senior security officials
  • The president is expected to appoint new members of the government on Tuesday
  • Former spokesperson for ex-leader denies break in power
  • Internet restricted, no statement from protesters

ALMATY, Jan.9 (Reuters) – The Kazakh president sacked two other senior security officials on Sunday after the worst unrest in three decades of post-Soviet independence and authorities said the situation was stabilizing, with troops led by the Soviet Union. Russia guarding key facilities.

The sacked officials were deputies to former intelligence chief Karim Massimov, who was arrested on suspicion of treason after violent protests swept through the oil and uranium-producing Central Asian republic that borders Russia and the United Kingdom. China.

Thousands of people have been arrested and public buildings torched during mass anti-government protests last week. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev issued shoot-to-kill orders to end the unrest he blamed on bandits and terrorists.

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Russian and state media reported 164 people were killed in the clashes, citing a government social media post. But health and police officials did not confirm the figure, and the social media post was later removed.

The internet has been restricted and telecommunications uneven, making it difficult to verify numbers and confirm statements.

No group has emerged to speak on behalf of the protesters. Protests against rising fuel prices began a week ago before erupting into a larger protest against Tokayev’s government and the man he replaced as veteran president Nursultan Nazarbayev, 81 .

At Tokayev’s invitation, a Russian-led alliance of ex-Soviet states – the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CTSC) – sent troops to restore order, an intervention that comes at a time of high tension in Russian-US relations ahead of talks this week on the Ukrainian crisis. Read more

Tokayev’s spokesperson said on Sunday that he believed the forces would not be in Kazakhstan for long, and perhaps not more than a week or even less.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and other leaders of CSTO countries will hold a video conference on Monday to discuss the crisis in Kazakhstan, the Kremlin said.

The violence has sparked speculation about a rift within the ruling elite, with Tokayev struggling to consolidate his authority after sacking key officials and removing Nazarbayev from a powerful role as head of the Security Council.

The president’s website announced the sacking of Marat Osipov and Daulet Ergozhin as deputy heads of the National Security Committee. He gave no explanation in a terse statement on Sunday night.

Their former boss arrested, Massimov, twice Prime Minister, was considered close to Nazarbayev. Authorities have not disclosed any details of the allegations against him. He and his lawyer could not be reached for comment. Read more

In a statement meant to call off talks over a breakup, Nazarbayev’s spokesman said Nazarbayev had been in the capital Nure-Sultan throughout the crisis and had himself chosen to step down on the security council. to Tokayev to help alleviate the crisis.

“(Him) and the head of state have always been” on the same side of the barricades “… In these difficult days, they demonstrated the monolithic nature of state power for all of us,” the statement read. calling to rally to Tokayev.

Tokayev is likely to appoint new members of the government when he addresses parliament on Tuesday, his spokesperson said.

He presented bravery prizes to 16 police and army officers killed in the violence.

IMAGE RETURN

A Kazakh law enforcement officer stands guard near a burned-out truck while checking vehicles on a street following mass protests sparked by rising fuel prices in Almaty, Kazakhstan on 8 January 2022. REUTERS / Pavel Mikheyev

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“The situation has stabilized in all regions of the country,” said the presidential office, adding that the police had regained control of administrative buildings.

“The anti-terrorist operation (…) will continue until the complete elimination of terrorists,” said Deputy Defense Minister Sultan Gamaletdinov.

The violence has dealt a blow to Kazakhstan’s image as a tightly controlled and stable country, which it has used to attract hundreds of billions of dollars in Western investment in its oil and mineral industries.

Police said 6,044 people had been arrested in connection with the unrest.

Russian Parachute Commander Andrey Serdyukov said the CSTO force has completed its deployment in Kazakhstan and will remain there until the situation completely stabilizes.

“A number of strategic installations have been transferred under the protection of the united peacekeeping contingent of CSTO member states,” the presidential office said.

Serdyukov said the troops were guarding important military, state and social sites in the city of Almaty and neighboring areas. He did not identify the facilities.

The deployments signal the Kremlin’s steadfast support for Kazakh authorities in an area Moscow considers vital for its security along its southern flank.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington was looking for answers in Kazakhstan as to why it should call on Russian-led forces to resolve internal unrest. He also denounced the government order to shoot to kill. Read more

DISCARDED CASE MACHINES

In Almaty, the largest city where much of the violence was concentrated, normal life seemed to resume on Sunday.

Security forces have set up checkpoints around the city. Broken windows, shattered cash machines and burnt buildings bear witness to the destruction.

The main square of the Republic remained cordoned off.

Reuters saw two military vehicles with mounted machine guns heading towards the square. Most of the dozens of civilian and police cars set on fire during the unrest had been removed.

Supermarket chain Magnum said 15 of its 68 stores in Almaty had been looted.

Staff at a mall told Reuters that video cameras showed looters attacking an ATM, changing into clothes stolen from stores and coming out with two or three coats.

Yerkin Zhumabekov, a mall manager, said: “They came in cars without license plates at night, they destroyed everything. They took everything they could, shoes, clothes, cosmetics. “

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Reporting by Olzhas Auzeyov, Tamara Vaal, Mariya Gordeeva Robin Paxton Writing by Mark Trevelyan and Tom Balmforth Editing by Louise Heavens, Frank Jack Daniel, Andrew Heavens and Frances Kerry

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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