Kazakhstan protests: 164 people killed in unrest, health ministry says

·2-min read
Protests began in the country on 2 January   (AFP via Getty Images)
Protests began in the country on 2 January (AFP via Getty Images)

At least 164 people were killed during protests that erupted in Kazakhstan this week, the country’s health ministry has said.

Most of the deaths – 103 – were in the country’s largest city and former capital, Almaty, where demonstrators stormed government building, officials said.

The figures, which were reported on the state news channel Khabar-24, are a significant increase from a previous death toll stated by authorities, who said 26 members of the public had died.

It was not clear whether the new number referred only to civilians or whether law enforcement deaths were also included. Kazakh authorities said earlier on Sunday that 16 members of the police or national guard had been killed.

Kazakhstan’s ombudswoman for children’s rights said that three of those killed were minors, included a four-year-old girl.

The health ministry earlier said that more 2,200 people had sought treatment for injuries from the protests, with the interior ministry adding about 1,300 security officers were injured.

Almost 6,000 people were detained by police during the protests, according to the office of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

Presidential officials said unrest had largely stabilised in the country and authorities have now regained control of administrative buildings that were previously occupied by protesters.

It comes after a Russia-led military alliance sent troops to the country to tackle violent protests which erupted amid anger over fuel prices. President Tokayev said on Friday he had authorised police and the military to shoot to kill demonstrators.

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

Almaty’s airport, which was seized by protesters last week, remained closed but is expected to resume operations on Monday.

Protests began on 2 January in the west of the country over a sharp rise in fuel prices, and went on to spread throughout the country, reflecting wider discontent.

Kazakhstan has been ruled by the same party since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Anyone aspiring to oppose the government has either been repressed, sidelined, or co-opted, and despite Kazakhstan’s huge reserves of commodities such as oil, natural gas, uranium and minerals, financial hardship can be seen throughout the country.

Mr Tokayev has claimed without evidence the demonstrations were ignited by "terrorists" with foreign backing. However, the protests have shown no obvious leaders or organisation.

In a statement on Sunday, the president’s office claimed those arrested included "a sizeable number of foreign nationals", but gave no further details.

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

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