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Kazakh unrest: Malaysians and investments in Kazakhstan are safe, says ambassador

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KUALA LUMPUR: The situation in Kazakhstan has stabilised following a major unrest last week, and the government has given assurance on the safety and protection of Malaysian investments valued US$1bil (RM4.18bil) in the Central Asian country.

Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to Malaysia, Bulat Sugurbayev said most of the investments were oil and gas related, adding that he would be contacting each and every Malaysian investor to enquire about their well-being in the wake of the unrest.

“Kazakhstan ensures protection of foreign diplomatic missions in the country, as well as foreign companies and investors.

“There will be no changes on the investment climate, we remain committed and work on the enhancement of market economy values, rule of law and investment protection,” he told a press conference to provide updates on the situation in Kazakhstan at the embassy here, on Wednesday (Jan 12).

Wisma Putra in a statement on last Saturday said all the 79 Malaysians registered with the Malaysian embassy in Nur Sultan are safe following the unrest. The number include diplomats and their dependents at the Embassy, as well as at the Matrade and Tourism Malaysia offices in Almaty, the major commercial and cultural centre of Kazakhstan.

The ambassador said so far there was no evacuation request from Malaysians, adding that they could technically take flight from any airport in the country with the international airport in Almaty, which was seized by the terrorists, expected to be operational for civil flights soon.

Kazakhastan authorities said that the unrest started as a peaceful demonstration on Jan 2 in Almaty and 10 other regions opposing a recent hike of retail prices for liquefied petroleum gas but was later hijacked by violent extremists’ groups.

Without producing any demands, the well organised groups of people started rampage, killed people as well as law enforcement officers and destroyed critical infrastructure namely gun shops, police and national security arsenals, mayor’s office and television studios.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev started a counter-terrorism operation to defend the country’s democracy and constitution from terrorists and requested a peacekeeping support from the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) to assist the army and law enforcement who were fighting terrorists.

The president had announced that the Russian led CSTO peacekeepers will complete their mission on Jan 13 and will leave Kazakhstan within 10 days.

Sugurbayev also stressed that the president gave shoot-to-death order to law enforcement to stop violence in Almaty and that the order was targeted on terrorists only.

“We clearly distinguished peaceful protesters from terrorist groups. All active combat engagements targeted only terrorists,” he said, adding that the situation in Almaty has now stabilised.

Meanwhile, Tokayev in updating the situation in Kazakhstan tweeted: “We faced unprecedented act of aggression and assault on our statehood, and took urgent measures to restore constitutional order and rule of law”. – Bernama