31 Aug 2021 10:29

Kazakh defense minister resigns following ammo depot blasts, new minister appointed

NUR-SULTAN. Aug 31 (Interfax) – Kazakh Defense Minister Nurlan Yermekbayev has tendered his resignation following last week's explosions at an ammunition depot in a military unit in southern Kazakhstan, and President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has accepted it, presidential press secretary Berik Uali said on Facebook.

"President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, having considered Defense Minister Nurlan Yermekbayev's letter of resignation, has accepted his resignation," Uali said.

The Kazakh president has signed a decree appointing Murat Bektanov as defense minister, the presidential press service said.

The presidential decree circulated on Tuesday orders that "Murat Karibayevich Bektanov be appointed the defense minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan."

Bektanov, 55, most recently held the post of first deputy defense minister.

On the evening of August 26, a fire broke out at an engineering ammunition depot of Military Unit No. 28349, which is stationed in the Baizak district of the Zhambyl region, as a result of which more than a dozen explosions occurred. The area of the fire was almost 700 square meters.

"The depot's entire building - 697 square meters - was ablaze. Fragments flew around as far as two kilometers. The preliminary information available indicates that more than 500 tonnes of TNT were stored at the depot," Uali told reporters on Friday.

According to the latest information, 15 people died and about 100 were injured, most of them rescuers, military personnel and employees of the prosecutor's office, during the accident response. According to the Defense Ministry, there were no casualties or injuries among civilians.

August 29 was declared the day of national mourning in Kazakhstan.