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Kazakhstan arrests ex-intelligence chief for treason

January 8, 2022

Security forces appear to have quelled massive riots in Kazakhstan, although the political situation remains volatile. Karim Masimov, a close ally of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, has been arrested for treason.

Pictured in this video screen grab are Russian airborne troops soldiers before they depart to join the Collective Security Treaty Organisation s peacekeeping force in Kazakhstan
Calm has reportedly been restored across Kazakhstan amid heavy security presence, including Russian troopsImage: Russian Defence Ministry/Tass/imago images

The former head of Kazakhstan's domestic intelligence agency has been arrested on suspicion of high treason, the National Security Committee said Saturday.

The news comes after dozens of people were killed in protests triggered by a surge in fuel prices. On Friday, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared that constitutional order has been "mainly restored" in the Central Asian country, with peacekeepers from Russia and several other ex-Soviet countries now in Kazakhstan.

Former intelligence chief Karim Masimov was fired earlier in the week as protests raged across the country. Authorities have now said Masimov and several other officials have been detained. The protests have also prompted President Tokayev to remove his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev as head of the Security Council.

Former leader urges support for government

Masimov, a close ally of the 81-year-old Nazarbayev, has twice been prime minister. He also served as head of the presidential administration under the hard-line leader.

Nazarbayev has not made a public appearance since the start of protests and also did not directly react to the news of Masimov's arrest.

On Saturday, however, Nazarbayev's spokesman Aidos Ukibay said the former president "calls on everyone to rally around the president of Kazakhstan to overcome current challenges and ensure the integrity of the country."

Much of the demonstrators' anger appeared directed at Nazarbayev, who ruled Kazakhstan for 29 years. Protesters tore down a bronze statue of him during the unrest, as seen in a tweet by journalist Peter Leonard.

Putin, Tokayev discuss next steps

Tokayev held a "lengthy" phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday.

"The presidents exchanged views on the measures taken to restore order in Kazakhstan," the Kremlin said.

The two leaders agreed to soon hold a video conference of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance of five former Soviet republics, including Russia.

Russia has deployed 2,500 troops under a CSTO mandate, in a move widely condemned by Western nations. 

lo/dj (AFP, Reuters)

Correction, January 8, 2022: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Karim Masimov. DW apologizes for the error