La Jornada newspaper
Monday, January 10, 2022, p. 24

Kazakhstan The unrest in Kazakhstan caused 164 deaths and some 2,000 wounded, while the authorities announced yesterday that they had arrested almost 6,000 people linked to these bloody riots that have rocked the largest country in Central Asia throughout the week.

The figures could not be confirmed by an independent source, but 103 of the deaths were in Almaty, the economic capital, various media reported, citing the Ministry of Health.

Official sources indicated that 26 armed criminals and 16 members of the security forces died.

In total, some 5,800 people were detained, including many foreigners, during 125 different investigations, the Kazakh presidency said in a statement, without providing further details.

The situation has stabilized throughout the country, despite the security forces continuing to carry out clean-up operations, the source added, after a crisis meeting called by the president, Kassym Jomart Tokayev.

Additionally, troops from a multinational contingent of the Russian-led collective security treaty organization (CSTO) guard key facilities.

Kazakhstan, a country of 19 million people, rich in hydrocarbons, was rocked by unprecedented unrest since its independence in 1989, when dozens of people were killed.

The protest began last Sunday in the provinces due to the increase in gas prices, to spread to large cities, including Almaty, where riots broke out to which the police responded with live bullets against the protesters.

According to the Kazakh Ministry of the Interior, quoted yesterday by the local press, the material damage was estimated at about 199 million dollars. More than 100 companies and banks were looted and some 400 vehicles destroyed.

On Saturday, the former director of intelligence services, Karim Massimov, the first important figure arrested, was arrested on suspicion of high treason.

Refusing any dialogue with the protesters, Tokayev on Friday authorized security forces to shoot to kill.

Almaty returned to relative calm in recent days, and there police officers fired shots into the air to prevent its inhabitants from approaching the central square of the city, an Afp journalist confirmed on Saturday.

A sign of the timid return to normalcy, some 30 supermarkets reopened yesterday to avoid public concern about a possible shortage, the media reported.

These days, you saw long lines of vehicles at the fuel service stations. Scars remain in Almaty from recent days of violence, with building facades blackened by fire, and charred cars blocking the streets. The local airport, which should reopen on Monday, will remain closed until the situation stabilizes, authorities said yesterday.

In addition to the rising cost of living, the figure of former president Nazarbayev, who ruled with an iron fist from 1989 to 2019, is at the heart of the protesters’ anger.

His spokesman, Aidos Ukibai, again denied that Nazarbayev had left the country, claiming that he supports Tokayev.

In the context of rumors about a power struggle, he also commented that Tokayev voluntarily handed over the leadership of the National Security Council to Nazarbayev, after the announcement that he would take over the reins of the country.

In addition, the Kazakh crisis has caused more tensions between Russia and the United States, in a context of difficult relations between the two powers. The CSTO will meet on Monday by videoconference to assess the situation in Kazakhstan.