At least 164 reportedly killed in a week as Kazakhstan suppresses violent protests


At least 164 people have been in killed in the protests that have rocked Kazakhstan over the past week, according to a health ministry report that has since been deleted.

Key points:

  • The government says order has been restored in the country
  • Thousands have been injured while more than 5,800 people have been detained
  • Russia-led troops sent in to assist the government are tipped to remain for no more than a week

Russian and state media broadcast the figure, citing a health ministry social media post.

But health and police authorities did not confirm the number, and the social media post was then deleted.

The internet has been restricted and telecommunications are patchy, making it difficult to check figures and confirm statements.

According to the reports, about 103 deaths were in Almaty, the country's largest city, where demonstrators seized government buildings and set some on fire, according to the ministry.

The country's ombudsman for children's rights said three of those killed were minors, including a four-year-old girl.

The violent protests prompted a Russia-led military alliance to send troops to the country.(AP: Vasily Krestyaninov)

The ministry earlier reported more than 2,200 people sought treatment for injuries suffered during the protests, and the Interior Ministry said about 1,300 security officers were injured.

It is not clear if the 164 deaths referred only to civilians or if the deaths of law-enforcement officers were included.

Kazakh authorities said earlier on Sunday that 16 police or national guard officers were killed.

Authorities previously reported the civilian death toll as 26.

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The office of Kazakhstan's President said about 5,800 people were detained by police during the protests that developed into violence last week.

At President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev's invitation, a Russia-led alliance of ex-Soviet states — the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) — sent troops to restore order.

Mr Tokayev's spokesman said on Sunday he thought the forces would not be in Kazakhstan for long, and possibly no more than a week or even less.

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

Mr Tokayev's office said on Sunday order had been restored in the country and authorities had regained control of administrative buildings occupied by protesters, some of which were set on fire.

The Russian TV station Mir-24 said sporadic gunfire was heard in Almaty on Sunday but it was unclear whether they were warning shots by law enforcement officers.

Mr Tokayev said on Friday he had authorised police and the military to shoot to kill to restore order.

Almaty's airport, which was taken by protesters last week, remained closed but was expected to resume operating on Monday.

Protests over a sharp rise in prices of LPG fuel began in the country's west on January 2 and spread throughout the country, apparently reflecting discontent extending beyond the fuel prices.

The same party has ruled Kazakhstan since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Protests over a sharp rise in prices of LPG fuel began in the country's west on January 2.(AP: Vasily Krestyaninov)

Any figures aspiring to oppose the government have either been repressed, sidelined, or co-opted, and financial hardship is widespread despite Kazakhstan's enormous reserves of oil, natural gas, uranium and minerals.

Mr Tokayev contends the demonstrations were ignited by "terrorists" with foreign backing, although the protests have shown no obvious leaders or organisation.

The statement from his office on Sunday said the detentions included "a sizeable number of foreign nationals", but it gave no details.

It was unclear how many of those detained remained in custody on Sunday.

The former head of Kazakhstan's counterintelligence and anti-terror agency has been arrested on charges of attempted government overthrow.

The arrest of Karim Masimov, which was announced Saturday, came just days after he was removed as head of the National Security Committee by Mr Tokayev.

No details were given about what Mr Masimov was alleged to have done that would constitute an attempted government overthrow.

Two of his deputies were also sacked.

The National Security Committee, a successor to the Soviet-era KGB, is responsible for counterintelligence, the border guards service and anti-terror activities.

AP/Reuters

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news



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