Kazakhstan raises death toll to 225 in days of protests

A military vehicle of Russian peacekeepers of Collective Security Treaty Organization gets ready to be loaded onto a Russian military plane starting to withdraw its troops at an airport outside Almaty, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

MOSCOW (AP) — A top law-enforcement official in Kazakhstan said Saturday that 225 people died during the violent demonstrations that shook the country this month, a significantly higher number than previously announced.

Serik Shalabayev, head of the criminal prosecution service in the general prosecutor’s office, said 19 police officers or servicemen were among the dead, news reports said. More than 4,300 people were injured, he said.

The previous official death toll was 164.

Demonstrations started on Jan. 2 in the oil and gas-rich Central Asian nation to protest a sharp rise in fuel prices. They quickly spread nationwide, widened into a general protest against the country’s authoritarian government and descended into violence within several days, especially in Almaty, the country’s largest city. Protesters stormed government buildings and set them ablaze.

At the request of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization sent a force of more than 2,000 soldiers, mostly Russians, to act as peacekeepers. The Russian Defense Ministry said Saturday that its troops had returned home, but it was unclear if forces from other alliance countries remained in Kazakhstan.