A man with bruised face shown by Kazakhstani media was identified as a touring musician from neighboring Kyrgyzstan. In a released clip, he confesses to having been paid to participate in a protest that led to massive riots.
People gathered outside Kazakhstan’s embassy in Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, on Sunday, demanding that Kazakh authorities release musician Vikram Ruzakhunov. “He’s not a terrorist. He’s an ordinary citizen, a musician, a decent man,” Kamchybek Tashiyev, head of the Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security, told reporters at the protest. “We checked through all of our channels this morning: Vikram Ruzakhunov didn’t participate in riots and street marches.”
Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov shared a photo of Ruzakhunov on social media, vowing to “firmly defend and protect” Kyrgyz nationals who were “unfairly” held responsible for the unrest in the neighboring Central Asian country. At the same time, Japarov admitted that some Kyrgyz migrant workers living in Kazakhstan may have participated in protests there.
Kazakh officials arrested over 5,000 people following a wave of riots and street fighting that has gripped the nation this week. The disturbances, which started shortly after New Year with protests against fuel price hikes, led to casualties among rioters and law enforcement. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev claimed that the country was attacked by foreign “criminals and terrorists.” The Russian-led regional security bloc CSTO deployed a multinational force to help Nur-Sultan quell the unrest.