Investigations into January riots in Kazakhstan point to coup d’etat

International Desk, Mar 12 (EFE).- In several days the results of an investigation into the violent unrest in Kazakhstan at the start of the year in 11 cities that left 240 people dead and 10,000 detained, Russian soldiers in the streets and the fear of a coup d’état are to be published.

The president of the former Soviet republic, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, is to address the nation to announce the “far-reaching” reforms in the political system, new economic measures and projects that are starting up and how the “New Kazakhstan” -as the government calls it- overcame this blood-stained moment in its history.

The ninth largest country in the world was the scene, in the first week of 2022, of how peaceful demonstrations (currently allowed thanks to a recent law) quickly turned into organized riots.

The vast majority of the protagonists of the most violent scenes were different from those of the initial protests, with a clear intention to destabilize a country that had to resort to troops from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led military alliance of six former Soviet states, to ensure security.

An official investigation is underway to find out who was behind the orchestrated and “professional” riots, as well as to establish responsibility for alleged cases of police violence and alleged methods of detention and interrogation more typical of the old USSR than of a country in a process of transition, which was very slow under the former president, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Next week the preliminary results of this investigation carried out by the Attorney General’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and including the more than 3,000 open criminal proceedings (46 for terrorist acts and 94 for murder) are be published.

The independent commissions, such as the one headed by Aiman Umarova, founder of the Human Rights Lawyers Foundation and a recipient of the US State Department’s International Women of Courage Award in 2018, continue.

Umarova believes that the National Security Committee (NSC) and the “entourage” of former President Nazarbayev organized the riots and the “terrorist acts” intended to stop the country’s reforms to maintain the privileges and power they have enjoyed for decades.

The fact that the violent groups prioritized objectives such as seizing weapons stored in police facilities, previously knowing their location, destroying security cameras on streets and the hard disks for storing images, and carrying out an operation for the bodies of the violent agitators that were killed to be collected or made unrecognizable, support the allegation of an organized coup d’état.

This idea of an attempted uprising in the face of reforms does not only come from the current government or from the leaders of the independent investigation committees.

International journalists, including from Efe, recently visited the streets of the capital, Nursultan, and the city most affected by the riots, Almaty, and spoke with Kazakhs who believed in the possibility of a coup.

One of the changes is, for example, a modification two years ago of an old Soviet law from 1995 which required permission from the authorities to hold a demonstration to only give prior notice.

In addition, political reforms are being finalized for elections to choose mayors in municipalities regardless of their size, something which does not exist in this region of the world and which represents an important evolution compared to the current system, in which the president appoints the mayor of large cities and is then ratified by congress.

In the presentation of the “New Kazakhstan,” economic projects in green energies, infrastructure, communications and construction are to be explained, as part of a transformation that has allowed the consolidation of initiatives such as the Astana International Financial Center, which has been operating for five years under the same regulations as markets in the United Kingdom, offering investors the same legal security as the London Stock Exchange, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Kazakhstan, with the largest economy in Central Asia thanks largely to its natural resources (minerals, rare earth metals and hydrocarbons) plans to build two nuclear power plants as part of its decarbonization program.


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