Kazakhstan death toll rises to 164 in violent protests

(CNN) — At least 164 people have been killed and more than 5,000 arrested during violent unrest in Kazakhstan this week, as unrest spread across the country and the death toll rose further.

Deadly protests that have erupted in the Central Asian country in recent days have seen the government resign and a state of emergency declared as troops from a Russian-led military alliance were deployed to help contain the unrest.

The death toll, a significant increase from Friday’s tally of 44, was announced Sunday on the Khabar 24 state television channel, citing the Kazakhstan Ministry of Health.

The unrest is the biggest challenge yet to the autocratic government of Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, with initial public anger over a rise in fuel prices expanding into broader discontent with the government over corruption, living standards, poverty and unemployment in the oil-rich, former Soviet nation, human rights organizations report.

So far, at least 5,135 people have been detained for alleged involvement in the Kazakhstan protests, Kazakh state media reported on Sunday, citing the country’s Interior Ministry. Meanwhile, the police have opened some 125 criminal cases related to incidents of violence, including charges of violence, murder, robbery, state media reported.

CNN has been unable to verify the government’s claims.

The “peacekeeping” forces of the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have been fully deployed in Kazakhstan and are now fully operational inside the country, CSTO Commander General Andrey said on Sunday. Sedyukov, at a press conference.

The CSTO, which includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, deployed forces following a call by Tokayev for help from the alliance after unrest broke out in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, including in the largest city Almaty.

Unrest in the country has led to the destruction of buildings and property.

Kazakh law enforcement officers are seen at a barricade during a protest sparked by fuel price hikes in Almaty on January 5.

Sedyukov said that the forces “execute tasks to protect important military, state and socially significant facilities in the city of Almaty and the adjacent area”, and will remain in the country until the situation is “completely stabilized”.

High-profile officials, including the former head of Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee, Karim Massimov, have been detained on suspicion of treason, state media report.

The European Union has made it clear that it “strongly condemns” the widespread acts of violence in Kazakhstan and that external military support “must respect the sovereignty and independence” of the country, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Saturday. it’s a statement.

“We deeply regret the loss of life and strongly condemn the widespread acts of violence,” he said.

“External military support must respect the sovereignty and independence of Kazakhstan, as well as the fundamental rights of all citizens,” he added.

CNN’s Radina Gigova, Zahra Ullah, Arnaud Siad and Olga Pavlova contributed to this report.

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