Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said he had weathered an attempted coup d’etat in an address to his country.
The Central Asian nation has experienced days of unrest that began as peaceful protests over the sudden increase in fuel prices. Violent clashes broke out across the country between federal forces and civilians. Several government buildings were set on fire, and the airport in Almaty, the nation’s largest city, was briefly seized by protestors.
Tokayev described the unrest as “terrorist aggression” and asked for Russia’s support.
According to a report from the Kazakhstan Interior Ministry, a total of 7,939 people have been detained by police. The nation’s counterintelligence and the anti-terrorism agency released a statement on Jan. 10 saying that the situation is now “stabilized and is under control.”
At least 164 people, including three children, have died due to the unrest. At least 16 fatalities were reported among the nation’s security forces.
The Kazakh government tried to deescalate the tension, which began on Jan. 2, by enacting a 180-day price cap on vehicle fuel and a moratorium on utility rate increases.
“As the unrest mounted, the ministerial cabinet resigned and President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev replaced Nursultan Nazarbayev, former longtime leader of Kazakhstan, as head of the National Security Council,” reports SF Gate. “One of the main slogans of the past week’s protests, ‘Old man out,’ was a reference to Nazarbayev, who served as president from Kazakhstan’s independence until he resigned in 2019 and anointed Tokayev as his successor. “
Tokayev met with the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which Russia leads, on Jan. 10. In a speech posted online after the meeting. The president said there was an ongoing effort to arrest the “terrorists.”
“Under the guise of spontaneous protests, a wave of unrest broke out,” he said. “It became clear that the main goal was to undermine the constitutional order and to seize power. We are talking about an attempted coup d’etat.”
“The main blow was directed against (the city of) Almaty. The fall of this city would have paved the way for a takeover of the densely populated south and then the whole country,” he said. “Then they planned to seize the capital.”
China offered to help Kazakhstan, both by offering to provide “law enforcement and security” cooperation and by interceding against any interference by “external forces.” The Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi reportedly made the offer in a call with Kazakh foreign minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi on Jan. 10
According to U.S. News & World Report, “China worries instability in its neighbour could threaten energy imports and Belt-and-Road projects there, and security in its western Xinjiang region, which shares a 1,770-km (1,110-mile) border with Kazakhstan.”
Tokayev said his administration would provide evidence about what took place to the international community in the near future.
Widespread internet blackouts made it difficult for forces outside the nation to get details about the unrest and the government’s actions to manage the violence.