Violent unrest in Kazakhstan has left 225 people dead, authorities say

File. Riot police prepare to block protestors in the centre of Almaty, Kazakhstan on 5 January 2022  (NUR.KZ)
File. Riot police prepare to block protestors in the centre of Almaty, Kazakhstan on 5 January 2022 (NUR.KZ)

Authorities on Sunday revised the death toll from bloody protests that erupted in early January in Kazakhstan to 225.

Serik Shalabayev, the head of the criminal prosecution at the prosecutor’s office said “the bodies of 225 people were delivered to morgues, of which 19 were law enforcement officers and military personnel.”

He added that others were “armed bandits who participated in terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, civilians have also become victims of acts of terrorism.”

The mass protests erupted in early January and the government said some 50,000 people joined the uprising. On 5 January, crowds torched several government buildings, banks and shops in major cities across Kazakhstan.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev had also announced a state of emergency.

Earlier, the Kazakh authorities had said that the toll from the protests was fewer than 50 - 26 armed criminals and 18 security officers.

Last week, Kazakhstan authorities had said that the death toll in the protests was 164. It said that the number included three children as well.

The health ministry had said that 103 deaths in the first week of protests were in Almaty, the centre of violence and the country’s largest city.

The government had later retracted its statement.

Mr Tokoyev had also asked the Russia-dominated security bloc — the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) — for help in the wake of massive protests.

Reports said that about 2500 troops had arrived in Kazakhstan from Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and were gradually withdrawn starting Thursday last week.

Meanwhile, Asel Artakshinova, a spokeswoman for the health ministry in the country said that more than 2,600 people had sought treatment at hospitals, with 67 remaining in a serious condition.

Authorities in Kazakhstan have blamed the violence on bandits and international “terrorists” without providing any evidence of the same.

US secretary of state Anthony Blinken had also condemned the Kazakh president’s shoot-to-kill orders during the protests. “That is something that I absolutely reject. The shoot-to-kill order, to the extent it exists, is wrong and should be rescinded.” he was quoted as saying by ABC News. “We have real concerns about the state of emergency that was declared.”

Daniyar Khassenov, a Kazakh political activist based in Kyiv told Al Jazeera that president “Tokayev and the government might discuss the social and economic situation in the country and they may decide to raise salaries and social payments in the hope that it will ease the tensions. But in the end, everyone understands that the reforms won’t be real.”