ALMATY/Jan. 16 (The Bulletin) — A senior Kazakh government official accused by human rights activists of ordering police to open fire at protesters in the oil town of Zhanaozen in 2011 has been promoted to head the State Guard Service.
General-Colonel Kalmukhanbet Kassymov is seen as a hardline loyalist. He was Kazakhstan’s interior minister between April 2011 and February 2019 and will now head up one of the most senior paramilitary units in the country. The State Guard Service is tasked with providing security for President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and also for former president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
At least 14 people were killed in Zhanaozen in December 2011 when striking oil workers clashed with security forces during celebrations for the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence from the Soviet Union. Video shot on shaky mobile phones showed police firing at fleeing workers.
Human rights groups have accused Gen. Kassymov of ordering armed police from central Kazakhstan to travel to Zhanaozen, in the western oil region of Mangistau, to confront and, ultimately, shoot protesters.
Gen. Kassymov, 62, is a professional policeman, making his way up through the ranks to become deputy head of the Zhambyl region police force in 1990 before moving into the Presidential Administration in the newly independent Kazakh government. From February 2019, after nearly eight years as Kazakhstan’s interior minister, Gen. Kassymov was made Secretary of Kazakhstan’s Security Council and an aide to the President.
— This story was first published in issue 434 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin