Kazakhstan president consolidates grip after violence

Kazakhstan president consolidates grip after violence

The violence in Kazakhstan this month left 225 people dead, according to the authorities which previously reported much lower numbers.

The Kazakh authorities previously claimed that fewer than 50 people were killed.

“During the state of emergency, the bodies of 225 people were delivered to morgues, of which 19 were law enforcement officers and military personnel,” chief prosecutor Serik Shalabayev told the media.

Among the dead were “armed bandits who participated in terrorist attacks [but] unfortunately, civilians have also become victims of acts of terrorism”, Shalabayev said.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared a state of emergency and invited in troops from the Russian-dominated security bloc, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation.

Shalabayev estimated 50,000 people had joined the protests and riots by their peak on January 5, when crowds burned down government buildings and businesses in major cities. Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry said last week that approximately 9,900 people had been detained for involvement in the protests.

Much of the protesters’ anger appeared to be focussed on the 81-year-old founding president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who retired as head of state in 2019 and picked Tokayev as his successor. He had held dictatorial powers since 1989.

Tokayev has since condemned Nazarbayev, saying he failed to share Kazakhstan’s oil and uranium wealth with citizens.

The president said “a layer of wealthy people even by international standards” had emerged under Nazarbayev and announced the founding of a national fund called For the People of Kazakhstan.

“I believe that the time has come for them to give what is due to the people of Kazakhstan and to help the people on a systematic and regular basis,” Tokayev told the nation.

Nazarbayev’s rapid fall will be noticed by other former Soviet strongmen, including the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Both leaders have been thought to be considering the “Nazarbayev option” to step back from frontline politics.

Observers had suggested Putin would emulate Nazarbayev’s “father of the nation” role with a comfortable retirement while maintaining behind-the-scenes control. Nazarbayev’s humiliation makes that appear a less secure option.

Nazarbayev appears to have disappeared with rumours he was beside Lake Geneva, in Dubai, still in Kazakhstan or dead.

Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna at the weekend said two sons-in-law of Nazarbayev, Dimash Dosanov and Kairat Sharipbayev, had been removed from the management of top energy firms.

The Kazakh authorities have also detained the former national security chief, Nazarbayev loyalist Karim Masimov, on charges of attempting to seize power.

Police batons and shields seized by protesters during the riots. Picture credit: YouTube

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