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Scepticism in uneasy Kazakhstan as president promises reform | Kazakhstan

Okazakhstan’s president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who on the peak of unrest final week mentioned he had ordered troops to shoot to kill with out warning, has spent this week taking a softer line and promising real reform.

Nevertheless, with hundreds of individuals nonetheless in detention and a behind-the-scenes energy wrestle nonetheless not absolutely resolved, many have expressed scepticism.

“Individuals who have carried out critical crimes will likely be punished in accordance with the regulation,” Tokayev wrote on Twitter on Friday. “For others, I order the prosecutor to find out their degree of guilt, and if there are not any aggravating circumstances, to melt their punishment.”

Greater than 10,000 individuals have been detained in the course of the previous two weeks. On the peak of the protests, Tokayev mentioned “20,000 terrorists” had attacked Kazakhstan’s largest metropolis, Almaty, however these numbers appear to have been quietly revised.

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On Thursday, the prosecutor’s workplace mentioned 494 prison instances had been opened, together with 44 for terrorism. Most of these detained as a substitute confronted administrative fees with a most of 15 days in jail.

Journalists and rights activists say there may be little transparency concerning the prison fees and nonetheless no dependable determine for the quantity of people that died in the violence. An earlier determine of 164, printed by a government-linked supply, was later retracted.

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CSTO troopers attend a ceremony in Almaty on 13 January in preparation for his or her withdrawal from Kazakhstan. {Photograph}: Anadolu Company/Getty Photographs

Even in the west of the nation, the place the protests started over a pointy improve in gas costs, and the place occasions remained largely peaceable, police rounded up tons of of individuals concerned in the demonstrations.

Max Bokay, a longstanding rights activist in the western metropolis of Atyrau, mentioned by phone that about 500 individuals had been detained in the area, usually by police who got here to their properties after Tokayev applied a state of emergency final week. He solely knew of 1 case the place prison fees had been launched, however mentioned individuals detained on administrative fees had spoken of intimidation and beatings.

Bokay, who was arrested at a 2016 protest and spent 5 years in jail earlier than being launched final 12 months, mentioned this time he had not been detained, though he had been “roughed up” by a bunch of males on the road in the course of the days of protest. “And simply at the moment, a number of hours in the past, there have been individuals kicking my house door, in all probability as a result of at the moment I had a one-person protest in opposition to torture in jails, I suppose it’s an intimidation tactic,” he mentioned on Friday.

The protests, over financial and political calls for, had been apparently hijacked by an intra-elite battle between Tokayev and figures near Nursultan Nazarbayev, the nation’s president from its founding in 1991 till 2019, when he handpicked Tokayev as his successor.

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Karim Masimov, head of the KNB safety providers and a former prime minister beneath Nazarbayev, has been arrested on treason fees and accused of attempting to grab energy, together with two of his deputies. He has not been seen or heard from for the reason that protests started.

Yermukhamet Yertysbayev, a former minister and Nazarbayev adviser, blamed “reactionary and conservative forces from the Nazarbayev clan” for stoking the unrest. “I believe negotiations are ongoing, and there’s a seek for a compromise,” he mentioned.

On the peak of the protests, when Tokayev’s grip on Kazakhstan appeared shaky, he known as on a Russia-led army alliance, the Collective Safety Treaty Organisation, to intervene. Greater than 2,000 principally Russian troops arrived, which helped shore up Tokayev’s place, and have already begun their departure.

Observers say the mission, whereas transient, has put Tokayev in Vladimir Putin’s debt and positioned Kazakhstan extra firmly in Moscow’s orbit. Putin has described the unrest as a “colored revolution” backed by nefarious forces in the west, main many individuals to concern a crackdown on what stays of Kazakh civil society.

Echoing Putin, Tokayev accused the impartial media of serving to fan the protests.

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Kassym-Jomart Tokayev holds a gathering at his emergency operations centre on 13 January. {Photograph}: Kazakhstan president press workplace

“We had been very disenchanted to listen to these phrases,” mentioned Vyacheslav Abramov, the editor-in-chief of the information portal Vlast.kz. “It’s very clear that it’s not media, it’s not civil society, who’re liable for the disaster – it’s the individuals in energy.”

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To this point, Tokayev has not acted in opposition to media retailers, and has introduced a collection of measures aimed toward profitable well-liked help, together with establishing a brand new fund for public good to which oligarchs and rich businessman will likely be pressured to contribute.

Abramov mentioned there have been now three potential eventualities: “The primary is that we’ve a large crackdown, like in Belarus; the second is that we return to the place we had been earlier than the disaster; and the third one we’re going in direction of actual reforms.” The third choice appeared the least possible, he added.

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