ALMATY (AFP) – The former head of Kazakhstan’s domestic security agency has been detained on suspicion of treason, the agency said yesterday, after he was fired amid unprecedented unrest.
The detention of Karim Masimov, a former prime minister and longtime ally of Kazakhstan’s ex-leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, was the first major move against a top official in the biggest crisis the ex-Soviet Central Asian republic has faced in years.
Nazarbayev’s spokesman meanwhile denied rumours the ex-president had left the country and said he was urging Kazakhs to rally around the government.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev sacked Masimov earlier this week after protests over rising fuel prices erupted into widespread violence, with government buildings in the largest city Almaty stormed and set ablaze.
Authorities said on Friday the situation was largely under control, but Tokayev issued a shoot-to-kill order and rejected any negotiations with protesters.
An AFP correspondent in Almaty said the city was quiet but tense yesterday, with security forces firing warning shots at anyone approaching a central square.
Masimov, 56, twice served as Nazarbayev’s prime minister and had been head of the National Security Committee, or KNB, since 2016.
The KNB said in a statement that it had launched an investigation into charges of high treason on Thursday and that Masimov had been detained the same day “on suspicion of committing this crime”.
It said others had also been arrested and that Masimov was being held in a temporary detention centre, but provided no further information.