14 Mar 2022 10:51

Total of 230 people die in Jan unrest in Kazakhstan - prosecutor general

NUR-SULTAN. March 14 (Interfax) - A total of 230 persons died in the mass unrest in Kazakhstan in January 2022, Kazakh Prosecutor General Berik Asylov said.

"In all, 230 people, including 19 army servicemen and law enforcement officers, died across the country during the January events," Asylov said at a plenary meeting of the Mazhilis, the lower house of the Kazakh parliament, on Monday in response to a question from deputies about the investigation of the January unrest.

The majority died "in Almaty, 139 people," he said.

"As of this day, we know that 86 assailants were killed in the course of deterring attacks on administrative buildings and the restoration of law and order. The circumstances around the deaths of 53 persons are being established; they were found within the city limits with various kinds of injuries, including 48 with gunshot wounds, two with stab wounds, and three with other kinds of traumas and burns," Asylov said.

"In the other seven regions, 63 assailants were killed by law enforcement officers defending buildings belonging to akimats [city administrations], police stations and departments of the National Security Committee," he said.

"As of this moment, we confirm the deaths of 20 civilians who accidentally came under gunfire, including 11 in Almaty, eight in the Almaty region, and one in Taras. Those who came under cross-fire include people killed by assailants and people who disobeyed orders from the military at roadblocks," Asylov said.

More than 3,700 criminal cases have been opened in the country in connection with the unrest, including 46 terrorism cases and hundreds of torture cases, he said.

"A total of 3,770 criminal cases have been opened. The vast majority of them are being investigated by the Interior Ministry: these are murders, thefts, assaults, hooliganism, and weapon thefts. The Anti-Corruption Service is investigating 234 torture cases," Asylov said.

"As many as 766 suspects have been arrested in total by all agencies. Most of them are people younger than 30, employed, without higher education," Asylov said, adding that over 22,000 persons have been checked for possible criminal activity.

In addition, seven criminal inquiries are in progress in Kazakhstan in regard to the heads of police departments and the National Security Committee who deserted during the January events, he said.

More than 50,000 people took part in demonstrations on the first days of the January events in Kazakhstan, Asylov said.

"People in western regions demanded after January 1 that gas prices be cut. I mean, there were no politics involved, and the demands were strictly socioeconomic. A government commission was sent to the region and met the gas price demand. Still, people took to the streets in Almaty, Shymkent and other regions. The overall number of protesters exceeded 50,000 within two days. Most of them protested in Almaty," Asylov said.

Later on, groups of citizens evolved into aggressive crowds and violence began in 11 regions, he said.

The events came in waves, Asylov said. The first wave was peaceful demonstrations, and various sorts of extremists penetrated protests later, he said.

"Criminal gangs joined the third wave. Attacks and arsons started. Armed radicals took advantage of the chaos and mounted targeted attacks at various sites. That is, we saw a merger involving extremists, criminals and religious radicals. The final stage was aimed at taking power by force," he said.

Asylov underlined that the ultimate objective of the January demonstrations, which developed into mass unrest, was a violent seizure of power.

"The ultimate goal of the [January] events was a violent seizure of power. The law defines such actions as terrorism," he said.

The National Security Committee is investigating 15 cases of treason, coup attempt, and large-scale bribery, he said.

"Former National Security Committee Chairman Karim Masimov and his three deputies have been arrested by the courts in connection with these cases. Another two heads of the agency have been indicted with exceeding their authority," Asylov said.

The case has been designated as "top secret," Asylov said.

At the beginning of January, peaceful demonstrations in Zhanaozen, western Kazakhstan, developed into mass economic and political protests across the country. In some regions, administrative buildings, police stations and stores were attacked. The largest city in the country, Almaty, sustained the heaviest damage from the gangs.