Kazakhstan security forces on high alert in Almaty amid calls for fresh protests

A view of foggy Almaty on 18 January 2022. [@polinaivanovva Twitter]

Security forces blocked several downtown streets and cordoned off one of the squares in Kazakhstan’s biggest city Almaty on Wednesday (19 January) as an opposition group planned to stage protests, a Reuters correspondent reported from the scene.

The oil-rich Central Asian nation was shaken this month by the worst bout of violence in its post-Soviet history during which at least 225 people were killed, most of them in Almaty.

On Wednesday, a group led by Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former Kazakh banker turned government critic in exile, said it would hold protests outside local government buildings in major cities throughout the country of 19 million.

A Kazakh court has ruled Ablyazov’s political movement, Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, was extremist.

Police in Almaty said they were carrying out an “anti-terrorist operation”.

This is not the first time that Ablyazov tries remotely to spark protests in his country.

Fugitive kleptocrat supports protest in Kazakhstan

Police in Kazakhstan detained dozens of protesters on Sunday (28 February) who were calling for the release of political prisoners in line with a resolution passed by the European Parliament.

For many years, Ablyazov has been accused of embezzling $6 billion from BTA Bank (Bank Turan Alem) in Kazakhstan while serving as its chairman in 2005-2009. As of 2013, BTA was the third-largest lender in the country, but after being the subject of major financial fraud, the bank filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and has since been restructured.

Ablyazov had previously been considered a successful businessman and manager and served as minister of energy in 1998.

For many years, he lived sumptuously in London and is said to have paid millions to opposition NGOs and media to boost his profile. But in 2012, a British judge ordered Ablyazov imprisoned for purportedly lying in court about his financial assets. He then fled Britain and established himself in France.

Russian court sentences Kazakh kleptocrat to 15 years in prison

A Russian court sentenced on Tuesday (29 December) the former chairman of Kazakh BTA Bank’s board of directors, Mukhtar Ablyazov, to 15 years in prison, Russian media reported. The story of Ablyazov, a fugitive for years, has been turned into a book as a striking example of the ability of post-Soviet kleptocrats to benefit from Western “hospitality”.

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Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Mr. Mukhtar Tileuberdi at the Conference on Disarmament



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