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Kazakh Leader Rejects Outside Probe Into Unrest, Says Country Can Conduct Its Own Investigation

Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev
Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev

Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has rejected calls for an international probe into protests earlier this month that left more than 220 people dead and prompted the country to call in troops from a Russian-led military organization.

Toqaev and other Kazakh officials have blamed the clashes on “bandits and terrorists” with foreign connections without giving direct evidence of any alleged terrorists being involved.

In his first televised interview since the unrest began, Toqaev reiterated on January 29 that Kazakhstan had been attacked by militants and said the state would be able to conduct its own probe into the events.

"As concerns an international investigation into the events in Kazakhstan, I don't see the need for such an investigation. We have our own people that are honest, objective," Toqaev said in the interview shown by the state broadcaster Khabar.

The European Parliament on January 20 overwhelmingly adopted a resolution demanding "a proper international investigation into the crimes committed against the people of Kazakhstan" during the violence.

In the interview Toqaev called the resolution "unobjective, premature," adding that it “does not worry me."

Protests earlier this month in the remote town of Zhanaozen over a sudden fuel-price hike quickly spread across Kazakhstan, with much of the protesters' anger directed at Nursultan Nazarbaev, who had ruled Kazakhstan since 1989.

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Toqaev, Nazarbaev's handpicked successor, claimed in the wake of protests that Almaty was attacked by "20,000 terrorists" as he issued a shoot-to-kill without warning order and invited troops from the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to enter the country.

The CSTO units began arriving in the country on January 6 and completed their withdrawal about two weeks later after the situation stabilized.

Toqaev said he had been “objective” in his assessment of Nazarbaev before he took over the Security Council on January 5 as protests escalated. At the time, a number of high-ranking officials close to Nazarbaev were fired, prompting speculation of a power struggle between Nazarbaev and Toqaev.

“There was no talk of personal preference. There was only talk of an immediate solution to the issue of the status of the chairman of the Security Council,” Toqaev said in the interview.

Earlier in the day, Toqaev said at a meeting of the ruling party that "our first president has done a great job in transforming our country into a strong state."

Toqaev on January 28 replaced Nazarbaev as the leader of the ruling Nur-Otan party. The presidential press service said that the decision was made at the party's congress at the behest of Nazarbaev.

Despite announcing in March 2019 that he was stepping down after almost 30 years of ruling the oil-rich Central Asian nation, Nazarbaev has continued to have a strong influence over Kazakhstan's domestic and foreign policies as lifetime chairman of the influential Security Council and leader of the Assembly of Kazakhstan's People and the Nur-Otan party.

Nazarbaev has now lost all three of those positions but continues to enjoy the powers of elbasy (leader of the nation).

The congress was held amid a protest by some members of the party who quit its ranks over what they see as the party's "failure" to prevent bloodshed during the anti-government protests.

With reporting by AFP
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