Kazakh authorities on Saturday detained the former national security chief on suspicion of treason amid a countrywide wave of violent unrest.
Karim Massimov, who was fired this week as protests took hold, was detained alongside several other officials on Saturday, the National Security Committee said in a statement, without providing their names or further details.
Dozens have died and public buildings across Kazakhstan have been ransacked and torched in the worst violence experienced by the former Soviet republic in 30 years of independence.
The unrest was fuelled by public anger over the country’s former ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev and his family amassing a huge fortune, and over a hike in gas prices. Massimov is widely viewed as a close ally of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev. He has twice been prime minister and has also served as head of the presidential administration under Nazarbayev.
Security forces appeared to have regained control of the streets of the Central Asian state’s main city Almaty on Friday morning and the president said constitutional order had mostly been restored, hours after 2,500 Russian ‘peacekeepers’ arrived in the city.
Paratroopers from the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) were deployed on Thursday to help quell the unrest following an appeal for military aid from Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
It was a move US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken questioned, telling reporters during a State Department briefing on Saturday that it was ‘not clear’ why Kazakh officials felt ‘the need for any outside assistance’.
‘It would seem to me that the Kazakh authorities and government certainly have the capacity to deal appropriately with protests to do so in a way that respects the rights of protesters while maintaining law and order,’ he said. ‘One lesson of recent history is that once Russians are in your house, it’s sometimes very difficult to get them to leave.’
Russia has emphasised the deployment is only temporary with forces from Russia’s ‘mini NATO’, who have been given the right to use weapons in case they are attacked by ‘armed gangs’, expected to stay in Kazakhstan for several days or weeks.
And in another twist on Friday, Kazakhstan’s president issued a shoot to kill order to his troops to deal with disturbances from those he called ‘bandits’ and ‘terrorists’ – as he vowed to ‘completely eliminate’ protesters.
He has warned that there would be no negotiations with protesters, vowing to destroy ‘armed bandits’ who had attacked the country.
Security forces appeared to be in control of the streets of Kazakhstan’s main city Almaty on Friday morning and the president said constitutional order had mostly been restored, a day after Russian troops arrived to help quell the unrest
Dozens have died and public buildings across Kazakhstan have been ransacked and torched in the worst violence experienced by the former Soviet republic in 30 years of independence
Protesters ransacked the ruling Nur-Otan party’s headquarters building in Almaty overnight on Friday in an unprecedented wave of violent unrest
A bank in central Almaty in southern Kazakhstan was destroyed during clashes between demonstrators and military personnel overnight on Friday
Karim Massimov, who was fired this week as protests took hold, was detained on suspicion of treason alongside several other officials on Saturday, the National Security Committee said in a statement, without providing their names or further details
Russian paratroopers from the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) board a military cargo plane to depart to Kazakhstan as a ‘peacekeeping’ force on Thursday
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has questioned the deployment of Russian soldiers to Kazakhstan amid a countrywide wave of violent unrest
What is the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO)?
The Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) was formed by Russia and other former Soviet states in 2002, months after a US-led coalition intervened in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
It groups together some of the signatories – Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – of a 90s-era security pact among former Soviet republics.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said at the time that ‘we are living in a fast-changing world and therefore have to reinforce the treaty linking us and to adapt it new threats.’
The bloc founded a 20,000-strong rapid reaction force in 2009, while its 3,600-member peacekeeping unit is recognised by the UN.
Pascal Ausseur, a French former soldier and senior defence official who now heads the FMES think-tank, called the CSTO a ‘mini-NATO’.
Troops were deployed to the Central Asian state after President Tokayev – an ally of Russia’s Vladimir Putin – appealed to Russia-dominated security bloc which includes five other ex-Soviet states (Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) for help overnight on Wednesday.
It is the first time that a contingent of CSTO peacekeeping troops has been dispatched to deal with conflict in one of its member states.
It comes despite the refusal of Russia’s former President Dmitry Medvedev to send CSTO troops to quell deadly unrest in Kyrgyzstan in 2010, because ‘only in the case of a foreign intrusion and an attempt to externally seize power can we state that there is an attack against the CSTO – all the problems of Kyrgyzstan have internal roots.’
Meanwhile Kazakhstan’s president on Friday issued a shoot to kill order to his troops to deal with the violent uprising.
‘The militants have not laid down their arms, they continue to commit crimes or are preparing for them. The fight against them must be pursued to the end. Whoever does not surrender will be destroyed,’ he said in a televised address.
‘I have given the order to law enforcement agencies and the army to shoot to kill without warning.’
He went on to say the country’s main city Almaty had been attacked by ‘20,000 bandits’ and gave ‘special thanks’ to Russian President Vladimir Putin for sending troops to help quell the unrest.
He also condemned calls by some countries for talks with the protesters as ‘nonsense’. ‘What negotiations can be held with criminals, murderers?’ he asked.
Fresh gunshots could be heard in the morning near the city’s central square, where troops and protesters had battled through much of the previous day.
Russian troops (pictured) were deployed to the Central Asian state after President Tokayev – an ally of Russia’s Vladimir Putin – appealed to Russia-dominated security bloc which includes five other ex-Soviet states (Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) for help overnight on Wednesday
Kazakhstan soldiers patrol a street after clashes in Almaty on Friday, January 7, as authorities seek to regain control of Almaty’s streets
A police officer arrests several protesters in Almaty during a wave of unprecedented unrest across Kazakhstan on Thursday, January 6
Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest metropolis, is located in the country’s south east. It served as the country’s capital until 1997 and remains Kazakhstan’s trading and cultural hub. The bulk of the protests have taken place in Almaty, and the unrest has already resulted in the deaths of dozens of police officers and protestors, with up to 1,000 wounded
Demonstrations that began as a response to a fuel price hike have swelled into a broad movement against the government and ex-leader Nazarbayev, 81, the longest-serving ruler of any former Soviet state, and an ally of Putin.
He stepped down as president three years ago when he turned over power to Tokayev but his family is widely believed to have retained influence in Nur-Sultan, the purpose-built capital that bears his name. A statue of Nazarbayev was toppled late on Wednesday.
‘An anti-terrorist operation has been launched. The forces of law and order are working hard. Constitutional order has largely been restored in all regions of the country,’ Tokayev said in an earlier statement.
‘Local authorities are in control of the situation. But terrorists are still using weapons and damaging the property of citizens. Therefore, counter-terrorist actions should be continued until the militants are completely eliminated.’
Nazarbayev’s hand-picked successor, Tokayev, called in Russian paratroopers on Thursday as part of a force from former Soviet states to help put down the uprising, which he has described as a revolt by foreign-trained militants.
The interior ministry said 26 ‘armed criminals’ had been ‘liquidated’, 18 injured, and more than 3,000 detained, while 18 police and national guard service members had been killed since the start of the protests. More than 700 were injured.
A former banker who casts himself as the leader of the Kazakh opposition protests said Kazakhstan is now in geopolitical play and unless the West enters the fray then Russia will bring the Central Asian republic to heel in a type of restored Soviet Union.
Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former government minister who is now living in Paris, said the West needed to enter the fray.
‘If not, then Kazakhstan will turn into Belarus and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin with methodically impose his programme: the recreation of a structure like the Soviet Union,’ Ablyazov told Reuters.
Ablyazov cast himself as the leader of the opposition protests and said he was consulted every day on tactics on the ground in Almaty.
‘I see myself as the leader of the opposition,’ he said. ‘Every day the protesters call me and ask: ‘What should we do? We are standing here: What should we do?”
He said he was ready to fly into Kazakhstan to head a provisional government if the protests escalated and said his activists were awaiting him.
‘The West should tear Kazakhstan away from Russia,’ he said. ‘The West must help so that Putin cannot occupy this country, the West must help civil society elect its leaders so that the country can choose its path, a democratic path like in the West.’
Western countries have called for restraint on all sides and for the respect of people’s right to protest peacefully.
Pictured: A car (top-right) ploughs into Kazakh security forces in Aktobe, Kazakhstan
Pictured: A burnt-out car is seen in the city centre of Shymkent on January 7 after days of clashes between protesters and security forces
Kazakh service members stand guard in a square following the protests triggered by fuel price increase in central Almaty, Kazakhstan January 7, 2022. Kazakhstan today vowed to continue ‘liquidating’ protesters until they are ‘completely eliminated’ following days of unrest.
Pictured: Protesters gather in a square. Kazakhstan has been gripped by unrest since 2 January 2022 sparked by a rise in the price for liquefied petroleum gas used for vehicles
Source: Daily Mail