Detention of About 8 Thousand People in Kazakhstan

Kazakh authorities announced that about 8,000 people were detained during the protests that started last week and witnessed violence. The protests in Kazakhstan are the most violent social upheaval in the former Soviet republic that gained independence 30 years ago.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev described the events as a “terrorist attack” against the country and described the news that the authorities were fighting peaceful protesters as “disinformation”.

Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that 7,939 people were detained across the country. The National Security Committee, the country’s agency responsible for counterintelligence and counterterrorism, said the country had “stabilized and the situation was under control”. The committee announced that “hotspots with terrorist threat content have been eliminated” in the country.

Kazakh authorities declared Monday, January 10, a day of mourning for the large number of people who lost their lives in the protests. The Ministry of Health of Kazakhstan announced that 164 people, including three children, died in the protests.

The demonstrations that broke out on January 2, due to the abolition of the fuel price ceiling in Kazakhstan and the hike in LPG, spread throughout the country in a short time and became a reflection of the dissatisfaction with the authoritarian government.

The government then announced that a 180-day ceiling price would be applied to LPG prices and price increases would be suspended. As protests escalated, the cabinet resigned and President Kasım Cömert Tokayev appointed the former leader of Kazanistan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, head of the National Security Council.

“Old man get out,” one of the main slogans of last week’s protests, came to the fore as a reference to Nazarbayev, who ruled the country from Kazakhstan’s independence until his resignation in 2019 and chose Tokayev as his successor.

President Tokayev claimed that the demonstrations were provoked by “terrorists” supported by foreigners. However, there is no evidence that the demonstrations were organized by any leader or institution. Tokayev gave “shoot orders” to the police and soldiers to have the “terrorists” involved in violent acts killed on 7 January.

Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted today that peaceful demonstrations across the country “are hijacked by terrorists, extremists and criminal organizations”.

The ministry statement said, “According to preliminary data, among the attackers there are those with military combat experience in radical Islamist organizations. Currently, the security forces and the Kazakhstan Armed Forces are resisting terrorists, not ‘peaceful demonstrators’ as some foreign media outlets have incorrectly reflected.”

‘Terrorist attack evidence will be revealed to the world’

Speaking at the virtual summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance between the former Soviet republics and Russia, Tokayev promised that “additional evidence” of the “terrorist attack” against Kazakhstan would be made public to the world. Noting that it was met by the state, Tokayev said that “armed militant groups” aiming to overthrow the government were involved in the events.

Tokayev said at the summit that his country opposes the “coup attempt”. “A wave of insurrection broke out under the guise of spontaneous protests,” Tokayev said. “It has become clear that the main purpose of this is to overthrow the constitutional order and seize power.”

Tokayev said that the comprehensive counter-terrorism operation and the CSTO mission, consisting of 2 thousand 30 soldiers and 250 military equipment, will soon come to an end.

Putin’s Declaration of “Victory” in the Defense of Kazakhstan

In his speech at the CSTO summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who endorsed Tokayev, described the events as an “attack” organized from abroad.

Putin declared victory in his country’s defense of Kazakhstan against what he described as a foreign-backed terrorist insurgency and promised the leaders of the former Soviet republics that an alliance led by Moscow could protect them too.

After anti-government protesters set fire to public buildings in Kazakhstan last year, Putin sent paratroopers to protect strategic structures and facilities.

Russia’s rapid intervention in Kazakhstan and the deployment of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border revealed that the Kremlin is ready to use force to maintain its influence in the former Soviet Union at a time when tensions with the West are escalating.

Putin said that the CSTO “prevented the complete discrediting of the situation in Kazakhstan and the shaking of the foundations of the state, blocking terrorists, criminals, looters and other criminal elements.”

“We certainly understand that the events in Kazakhstan are not the first and will not be the last in terms of attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of our states,” said Putin. “The measures taken by the CSTO have clearly shown that we will not allow this situation to become a domestic issue.”

However, neither Russia nor Kazakhstan announced who they blamed for organizing the protests, which they described as foreign-backed uprisings.

Life in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, defined as the most stable former Soviet republic in Central Asia, seems to have returned to normal on January 10, after nearly a week of turmoil.

While the vehicles burned on the city streets were collected, most of the shops were opened, public transport services resumed, traffic flow returned to normal. Internet service in Almaty was also restored for a few hours for the first time since Wednesday.

On the other hand, Russian Interfax news agency reported that Kazakh authorities released the famous Kyrgyz musician Vikram Ruzakhunov. The arrest of Ruzakhunov on the grounds that he participated in protest actions was met with a reaction in the neighboring country of Kyrgyzstan.