RFERL’s Kazakh service notes an important development in the Zhanaozen massacre:
Kazakhstan’s Prosecutor-General’s Office has launched a criminal investigation into actions taken by police during riots earlier this month in the western city of Zhanaozen that left more than a dozen protesters dead.
Nurdaulet Suindikov, a spokesman for the office, told reporters in Astana that the investigation would seek to determine whether individual police abused their powers by firing on protesters with the intention of killing them.
This is, if you recall, precisely what I said Nazarbayev needs to do to stem public outrage over the killings. Even if the punishment to the police is limited to a few symbolic prosecutions, that will in all likelihood be enough to halt any attempts to convert this horrible tragedy into a regime-ending event.
Former ambassador to Kazakhstan William Courtney sees this is much more apocalyptic terms. While he is correct to note that Zhanaozen will not soon be forgotten, I do think he’s overstating how much effect this is having in the public sphere in Kazakhstan. I could always be wrong, but we just don’t have a lot of data yet to suggest that Zhanaozen will have any larger effects on the Kazakh government or on its social communities.
Which is probably too bad. Nazarbayev gets away with a lot of really nasty things, and there are far too many western analysts who grant him a pass for being affable and relatively prosperous. Amb. Courtney is a useful corrective in that sense, but it remains to be seen if the end really is drawing nigh.