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INTERVIEW: Recent unrest in Kazakhstan was ‘an attack on our state,’ says envoy
RIYADH: Kazakhstan has experienced a period of unprecedented violence and unrest that has had a dramatic effect on the population and threatened to undermine the constitutional order, according to Berik Aryn, the country’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia. It “is seen as an attack on our statehood”, he said, but added that the situation was now under control.
“The situation in all parts of the country has stabilized and people are returning to normal life,” Aryn said in an exclusive interview with Arab News. “Law enforcement liberated all previously seized government facilities. The main task today is the defense of our country and its citizens.
This month’s unrest in the country is the worst it has seen in 30 years since its independence.
“On January 2, 2022, peaceful protests began in the western regions of Kazakhstan, triggered by a spike in the price of liquefied petroleum gas,” Aryn said.
“Responding to public grievances about inflation and social and economic problems, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev decided to control the prices of oil and essential goods and services. At the same time, the president urged people not to succumb to internal and external provocations. »
Despite these efforts, protests have degenerated into violence across the country, he said, including riots, attacks on administrative buildings, military bases and civilian facilities, and the seizure of the airport of Almaty and local and foreign aircraft.
“Unfortunately, peaceful protests in Almaty and some other areas have been hijacked by local and foreign perpetrators and terrorist groups,” Aryn said. “Their criminal activities have caused riots, looting and mass violence.
“No protest or demonstration in a democratic society can justify attacks and killings of law enforcement officers. These terrorist gangs are fundamentally international, having received severe training abroad, and their attacks must be considered an act of aggression.
Saudi Arabia is one of our essential partners in the Middle East. Our countries have built a political dialogue of trust at a high level, established cultural and humanitarian ties and developed trade, economic and investment cooperation.
Berik Aryn, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Saudi Arabia
According to preliminary data, 225 people died during the riots. Some of them are armed bandits who participated in terrorist attacks. Among the dead were 19 police and military. Unfortunately, civilians have also been victims of acts of terrorism. 4,578 people were injured, of which 3,393 were law enforcement officers.
Authorities are investigating crimes committed during the unrest and a number of people have been arrested, Aryn said, and among those detained are foreign citizens whose identities are being established.
The envoy said destructive forces tried to take advantage of the situation to destabilize the country. They set fire to and attempted to destroy administrative buildings, police stations, hospitals and other social facilities, he added.
Armed with weapons and military equipment, they attempted to take control of strategic installations in the south of the country such as Almaty airport, the building of the National Security Committee in Almaty, the offices of television television and other major facilities, Aryn said.
“In doing so, they killed and used force against civilians,” he added. “They cannot be called insurgents since their actions are considered terrorist and extremist acts. Indeed, the investigation and the court will determine the degree of guilt of each detainee and the innocent will be released. Call centers have been opened across Kazakhstan to provide legal assistance to citizens affected by the terrorist attack.
“Kazakhstan will continue to guarantee the rights and interests of all representatives of our multi-ethnic and multi-religious people and the safety of foreign citizens in the country, including the diplomatic corps and journalists. The government guarantees the protection of foreign investments and the business of foreign companies.
The coup attempt and efforts to undermine the integrity of the country failed because the vast majority of the Kazakh people showed patriotism and unity in the fight against extremists during the tragic events, said the envoy.
On January 11, the President addressed Parliament and outlined the priorities for building a bright future for Kazakhstan, including improving the well-being of the people, reforming the political, social, economic and law enforcement, and strengthening national security, according to Aryn.
He also presented the new Prime Minister, Alikhan Smailov, who took office on January 5. Smailov said his government will strive to fulfill the tasks set by the president to improve the quality of life of the Kazakh people.
Responding to the support for stability his country has received from the international community, Aryn said: “The President has approached the Heads of State of the Collective Security Treaty Organization to provide military assistance to the operation counter-terrorism.”
The CSTO is an intergovernmental military alliance in Eurasia made up of some post-Soviet states. Aryn said that during a speech in Parliament, President Tokayev announced that the CSTO peacekeepers sent to help law and order efforts had completed their mission and that on January 14 they had began a gradual withdrawal from the country.
“Many countries and leaders of the world community have supported the people of Kazakhstan and President Tokayev,” Aryn added. “Member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Arab leaders were among the first to condemn terrorist acts in Kazakhstan and to express their support.
“On January 13, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Foreign Minister, in a telephone conversation with Mukhtar Tileuberdi, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan, expressed the support and solidarity of the Saudi government towards the people of Kazakhstan.
“We have received a considerable number of letters from our Saudi friends, who have decided to support the people of Kazakhstan in this difficult time, and we express our gratitude for this support.”
Arynb said Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia have close ties and their humanitarian cooperation includes active collaboration through the work of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief).
In 2017, financial aid from the Kingdom in the amount of 7 million dollars made it possible to finance the construction of a regional tuberculosis clinic in Semeyr with 80 beds. Earlier, a medical center for mothers and children in Nur-Sultan received equipment worth more than 3.5 million dollars.
“Saudi Arabia is one of our essential partners in the Middle East,” Aryn said. “Our countries have established high-level political dialogue of trust, established cultural and humanitarian ties, and are developing trade, economic and investment cooperation.
“We attach great importance to the overall development and expansion of bilateral relations.”
In December 1991, Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries to recognize Kazakhstan’s independence, Aryn said, and diplomatic relations were established in 1994. Since then, relations have developed rapidly.