Kazakhstan death toll spikes as 164 reported killed and thousands detained in violent protests

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

The death toll — a significant increase from Friday’s count of 44 — was announced Sunday on state-run TV channel Khabar 24, citing the Kazakhstan Ministry of Health.

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

At least 5,135 people have so far been detained for alleged participation in Kazakhstan protests, Kazakh state media reported Sunday, citing the country’s Internal Affairs Ministry. Meanwhile, police have opened some 125 criminal cases related to incidences of violence, including on the charges of violence, murder, robbery, state media reported.

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

“Peacekeeping” forces from member states of Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have fully deployed to Kazakhstan and are now completely operational within the country, CSTO commander general Andrey Sedyukov told a news briefing on Sunday.

The CSTO — which includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan — deployed forces following an an appeal from Tokayev for help from the alliance after unrest broke out across Kazakhstan on Wednesday, including in the largest city, Almaty.
Unrest in the country has seen buildings and property destroyed.
Kazakh law enforcement officers are seen on a barricade during a protest triggered by fuel price increase in Almaty on January 5.

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

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

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

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

“Outside military support should 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 reporting.