Death toll in Kazakhstan rises as 164 people are reported killed and thousands detained in violent protests

Deadly protests that have erupted in the Central Asian country in recent days have led the government to step down and declare a state of emergency as troops from a Russian-led military alliance have been deployed to help curb the unrest.

The death toll – a marked increase from Friday’s count of 44 – was announced on Sunday on the state-run television channel Khabar 24, citing the Kazakh Ministry of Health.

The unrest is the biggest challenge so far for the regime of autocratic Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, with initial public anger over a rise in fuel prices extended to broader dissatisfaction with the government over corruption, living standards, poverty and unemployment in the oil-rich, formerly. The 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 on Sunday, citing the country’s interior ministry. Meanwhile, police have opened about 125 criminal cases related to incidents of violence, including charges of violence, murder, robbery, state media reported.

CNN has not been able to confirm the government’s claims.

“Peacekeeping” forces from the member countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have been fully deployed to Kazakhstan and are now fully operational in the country, CSTO Commanding General Andrey Sedyukov told a news briefing on Sunday.

The CSTO – which includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – deployed forces following a call from Tokayev for help from the alliance after unrest erupted across Kazakhstan on Wednesday, including in the main city, Almaty.
Riots in the country have seen buildings and property destroyed.
Kazakh law enforcers are seen on a barricade during a protest triggered by a rise in fuel prices in Almaty on January 5.

Sedyukov said the forces “are carrying out missions to protect important military, state and socially important facilities in the city of Almaty and adjacent area,” and will remain in the country until the situation is “completely 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 it clear that it “strongly condemns” the widespread violence in Kazakhstan, and external military support “should respect the country’s sovereignty and independence,” EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said in a statement on Saturday.

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

“External military support should respect Kazakhstan’s sovereignty and independence as well as the fundamental rights of all citizens,” he added.

CNN’s Radina Gigova, Zahra Ullah, Arnaud Siad and Olga Pavlova contributed reporting.

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