Monday, April 22

Kazakhstan: protest violence ‘was ally of former president trying to overthrow his successor’

It has been claimed that allies of former Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev fueled the violence in protests last week in an attempt to topple his successor.

Nazarbayev, now 81, was the country’s first post-Soviet leader in the 1990s, but two years ago he stood aside in favor of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

Kazakhstan has been rocked by deadly protests that began with rising fuel protests and snowballed into broader dissatisfaction with the regime.

It is gone 164 dead and thousands injured. Most of the deaths, 103, occurred in Almaty, the country’s largest city, where protesters seized government buildings and set some on fire, according to the Kazakhstan Ministry of Health.

In an interview with Euronews on Sunday, opposition leader in exile Akezhan Kazhegeldin claimed that Nazarbayev’s allies paid “extremists” to convert peaceful protests in Almaty.

“Almaty has always been the base city of the clan, which is leaving power at the moment, of Mr. Nazerbayev. It was orchestrated by them, (it was) directed by them and they spent the money to organize this group,” he said. Kazhegeldin, who was strongman Nazarbayev’s second prime minister from 1994 to 1997, but was forced into exile after trying to defy him in a presidential runoff and campaign to reform the electoral process.

“(Their) objective was very simple. They tried to regain power, return to power, remove Tokayev and call a new election, and they probably believed that some of them were going to be elected.”

Old man out!

Tokayev issued the state of emergency and night curfew following the January 4 outbreak of violence in Almaty and has accused “terrorists” and “armed bandits” with “foreign” training and backing of being behind the unrest.

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He also requested and obtained help from a Russian-led military alliance and authorized law enforcement agencies to shoot to kill without warning.

Although the protest movement was started by a sharp rise in the price of natural gas over the New Year, it quickly expanded to include other complaints against the government and notably against Nazarbayev, with people shouting “Old man out!”

Nazarbayev allowed Tokayev to replace him as president in 2019, but he continued to wield considerable power, especially as head of the National Security Council.

Tokayev removed him from that office this week, while one of his closest allies, Karim Masimov, was fired as the country’s intelligence chief and arrested on charges of attempting to overthrow the government.

Tokayev ‘needs western help’

Tokayev, Kazhegeldin told Euronews, is in a position to lift the country out of its current crisis and that a rift between the president and his predecessor had appeared long before the events of last week.

Tokayev “was very loyal. Obviously, he was very loyal. But how loyal can he be if your power is interrupted every day if you are not in charge?” I ask.

“Everything [the] situation of the economy, price hike, very poor performance with [the] pandemic, “ticked off.” You are president, but you are not president (in full), someone else behind you, but the responsibility is yours. “

“It was enough, it is enough (for Tokayev), I think. It seems to me that the conversation between them was strongly,” he said as well.

However, the president remains “in a very dangerous position,” Kazhegeldin said, as he must restore order, hold those who participated in the bloodshed accountable and carry out reforms that the people want both economically and politically.

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His first task, Kazhegeldin argued, should be to recover hidden capital abroad, for which he will need Western help.

‘It is time to act’

The former prime minister claimed that Nazarbayev, his family and allies have diverted hundreds of millions of dollars out of the country. The British newspaper Telegraph reported on Saturday that Nazarbayev’s youngest daughter Aliya had around £ 300 million (€ 359 million) hidden in the UK.

“We are already appealing to Western governments, including the United States and the United Kingdom,” Kazhegeldin told Euronews.

“And they don’t need time to investigate, to study, to find out – it’s all there. We have done it with the help of investigative journalists, including the OCCRP (Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project) and we, even more, Sanctions. already formally presented. It is not a simple process. We have done it with the help and assistance of Western lawyers, “he added.

For now, Western countries have expressed concern about the events in Kazakhstan, condemning the violence, demanding that all parties respect human rights and freedom of the media, and calling for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

But for Kazhegeldin, “the time to worry is over. Right now, it is time to act.”

“It can help the Kazakh nation and it can do it easily. It has the law, the Magnitsky law, it has the national law, it has the EU law, it has everything, all the tools. Please freeze all assets and capital ( that) belongs to this corrupt family and will keep it safe and when the Kazakh government requests the return of all this capital, you will negotiate and then release this asset ”, he urged.

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