After two days of violence, relative calm has returned to Kazakhstan. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh counterpart, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, had a “long” telephone conversation to discuss the crisis situation in the country and agreed to keep in “permanent” contact.
Kazakhstan is facing a large-scale revolt on its territory, triggered by the rise in the price of gas, which has led to a violent crackdown. After two days of violence, the capital Almaty looked like a ghost town, with most banks, supermarkets and restaurants still closed, while police tanks patrolled the streets, which were still littered with burned vehicles.
“There were still some shots this morning (Saturday, January 8) that were heard around 8 in the morning. It is a relative calm. It is a particular situation, but we have the impression that order is gradually returning to this city, which has been the scene of very violent confrontations “, describes Régis Gente, a correspondent for RFI in the region.
In the rest of the country, the demonstrations continue, but on a much smaller scale than before, with some protesters saying “we must continue, we must get political reforms” and others saying “we have got what we wanted, the price of gas and fuel has back to normal, “adds Régis Gente.
The arrest of the former head of security
Following the riots, the National Security Committee (KNB) stated on Saturday that its former director, Karim Massimov, had been detained on Thursday following an investigation for high treason.
“On January 6 of this year, the National Security Committee launched a preliminary investigation for high treason,” it said in a statement. “On the same day, the former head of the KNB, KK Massimov, suspected of having committed this crime, was arrested and placed in a remand center together with other people,” the statement said.
Karim Kajymkanouli Massimov, a former prime minister and close ally of former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, was removed from office this week as head of the KNB.
“What is at stake is a change of the elite, or at least the return to control of a president who until then had a rather symbolic power,” sums up Régis Gente.
Kazakhstan, the largest country in Central Asia, is rocked by a protest that erupted in the provinces on Sunday before spreading to other cities and especially Almaty, the economic capital, where the demonstrations turned into chaotic and deadly riots.
A meeting between Putin and the Kazakh president “to restore order”
The head of state, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, on Friday authorized the security forces to “shoot to kill” to quell any rebellion and, backed by Russia, ruled out negotiating with the protesters.
He also had a “long” telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart to discuss the crisis situation in Kazakhstan, the Kremlin reported in a statement on Saturday. “The presidents exchanged views on the measures taken to restore order in Kazakhstan,” the statement said, adding that the two leaders agreed to remain in “permanent” contact.
Moscow also denounced the “crude” comments of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who warned on Friday that it would be “very difficult” for Kazakhstan to obtain the withdrawal of Russian troops once an intervention in its territory was given the green light. “The US secretary of state tried to downplay the tragedy that is taking place in Kazakhstan,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Facebook.
A contingent of Russian and other Moscow-allied troops arrived in Kazakhstan on Thursday to support the ruling power by protecting strategic buildings and supporting law enforcement.
Former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev called on the population to support the government in dealing with the country’s crisis, his spokesman said on Saturday. The former head of state “calls on all citizens to unite around the president of Kazakhstan so that he can overcome this crisis and guarantee the integrity of the country,” the spokesman, Aidos Ukibay, wrote on Twitter.