Kazakhstan detains former security chief for treason

Security forces appeared to reclaim the streets of Kazakhstan’s main city Almaty after days of violence.

The former head of Kazakhstan’s domestic intelligence agency has been detained on suspicion of high treason after he was fired amid violent protests.

The National Security Committee, or KNB, said in a statement on Saturday its former chief Karim Masimov – a close ally of Kazakhstan’s founding president Nursultan Nazarbayev – was arrested on Thursday after it launched an investigation into charges of high treason.

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“On January 6 of this year the National Security Committee launched a pre-trial investigation into high treason,” it said. “On the same day, on suspicion of committing this crime, former chairman of the KNB KK Masimov was detained and placed in a temporary detention centre, along with others.”

Authorities say security forces killed 26 demonstrators in this week’s unrest and 18 law-enforcement officers died. More than 4,400 people have been arrested, the interior ministry said on Saturday.

Public buildings across Kazakhstan were ransacked and torched in the worst violence experienced by the former Soviet republic in 30 years of independence.

Security forces appeared to have reclaimed the streets of Kazakhstan’s main city Almaty on Friday after days of violence. The Russian-backed President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said he ordered his troops “to shoot to kill” to put down a countrywide uprising.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) and his Kazakh counterpart Karim Masimov meet in YaltaKarim Masimov, left, seen with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in 2009 [File: Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti via Reuters]


A day after Moscow sent troops to help quell protests, police patrolled the debris-strewn streets of Almaty on Friday, although some gunfire could still be heard.

The demonstrations began as a response to a fuel price increase but swelled into a broad movement against the government and Nazarbayev, the 81-year-old longest-serving ruler of any ex-Soviet state until he turned over the presidency to Tokayev in 2019.

His family is widely believed to have retained influence in Nur-Sultan, the purpose-built capital that bears his name.

Nazarbayev’s press secretary said on Saturday the ex-leader is in Nur-Sultan, dismissing rumours of him leaving the Central Asian country in the wake of unprecedented unrest.

Nazarbayev “calls on everyone to rally around the president of Kazakhstan to overcome current challenges and ensure the integrity of the country”, Aidos Ukibay said on Twitter.

He also called against spreading “knowingly false and speculative information”, likely referring to unconfirmed reports that Nazarbayev had fled the country.


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