As Kazakhstan Faces Violent Unrest, 1,700 Have Been Detained

Authorities in Kazakhstan announced Wednesday that they had detained 1,678 additional individuals in the previous 24 hours for their suspected involvement in the violent upheaval that shook the former Soviet republic last week, the worst since the country’s independence three decades ago.

The new detentions, which were announced by officials in Almaty, the country’s largest city and the epicenter of the unrest, pushed the overall number of arrests to above 12,000, according to authorities. More than 300 criminal investigations concerning crowd disturbances and police officer attacks have been launched.

Protests over skyrocketing gasoline costs began on Jan. 2 in the 19-million-strong oil-and-gas-rich Central Asian republic, soon spreading across the country, with political chants reflecting broader unhappiness with the country’s authoritarian administration.

As the disturbance grew, officials sought to appease the demonstrators by announcing a 180-day price restriction on gasoline. Nursultan Nazarbayev, the country’s former longstanding leader, was removed from his powerful job as head of the National Security Council.

Despite this, the rallies became violent over the next few days, with scores of citizens and law police officers dead.

Protesters set fire to government buildings and temporarily seized the airport in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s former capital and largest city. By last Saturday, the tumult had mostly subsided.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has blamed the disturbance on foreign-backed “terrorists” and asked the Collective Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO, for assistance. The CSTO is a Russia-led military alliance made up of six former Soviet republics. The EU has agreed to send 2,500 troops to Kazakhstan.

Tokayev announced on Tuesday that the CSTO will begin removing its soldiers this week, claiming that their job has been finished and that the situation in the nation has calmed.

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