Kazakh officials have denied that a US-funded 'military biological laboratory' was seized by rioters in the recent unrest, which has seen at least 160 dead since the violence broke out just one week ago.
It is unclear whether the deaths, reported by the health ministry to state news channel Khabar-24, are primarily civilians or law enforcement according to the Daily Mail - however officials said on Sunday that at least 16 police or national guard members had been killed. Pictures of Kazakh secret service operatives killed during the unrest have also been released.
According to Russian media, the biolab near Almaty - built in 2017 and used to study outbreaks of particularly dangerous infections - was 'compromised,' resulting in a potential leak of dangerous pathogens. Kazakh officials have denied the claim.
The secret bio-laboratory funded by the US defence department - which has links to Russian and Chinese scientists - was also compromised in the disturbances, according to social media claims that it was seized.
'This is not true. The facility is being guarded,' said the health ministry which is responsible for the Central Reference Laboratory, in Almaty.
Official Russian news agency TASS had highlighted alleged social media reports that it was taken over by 'unidentified people' and 'specialists in chemical protection suits were working near the lab so a leak of dangerous pathogens could have occurred'.
The laboratory's existence has been controversial and in 2020 the country formally denied that it was being used to make biological weapons.
At the time, the Kazakh government stated: 'No biological weapons development is underway in Kazakhstan - and no research is conducted against any other states.' -Daily Mail
Of course, since the source of the claim is Russian state media, one should take it with the same grain of salt as any state-sponsored outlet (or their legacy media mouthpieces).
As the Mail notes, "The airport, mayor's office and secret services buildings fell briefly into the hands of rioters during a wave of protests backed by shadowy armed cells."
In 2018 there were reports that a new strain of meningitis which had leaked from the lab - which was similarly denied. According to officials, no US personnel remain involved in the lab's work, which included studying Covid.
The most recent controversy over the lab comes amid 'growing intrigue' over how the recent protests came to be organized, and which have been tamped down since a large Russian force was sent to the country. According to reports, 'well-coordinated' armed groups were operating alongside protesters over a hike in gas prices.
Nearly 6,000 people have been detained following the riots, with a "sizeable number of foreign nationals among them," the Mail reports. It's unclear where these alleged foreign provocateurs originated from.
Russia and allies Belarus have continued to pour troops and equipment into Kazakhstan.
Kazakh authorities said earlier on Sunday that 16 police or national guard members had been killed in the protests that started on January 2.
A total of 103 deaths were in Almaty, the country's largest city, where demonstrators seized government buildings and set some on fire, according to the ministry. The country's ombudswoman for children's rights said that three of those killed were minors, including a four-year-old girl.
The ministry earlier reported more than 2,200 people sought treatment for injuries from the protests, and the Interior Ministry said about 1,300 security officers were injured. -Daily Mail
As we noted on Sunday, Among the boldest and eye-brow raising political moves by embattled Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev within the past days that grabbed international headlines was his ordering the arrest of Kazakhstan's powerful former intelligence chief, Karim Massimov, on the charge of high treason.
Massimov had served as the prior longtime strongman ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev's prime minister and has long been considered his "right hand man". Shortly after, a photo has resurfaced, currently subject of widespread speculation which shows Joe Biden and Hunter Biden posing with the now detained Kazakh security chief Karim Massimov, along with well-connected oligarch Kenes Rakishev.
UPDATE: It wasn't just one meeting— Clint Ehrlich (@ClintEhrlich) January 9, 2022
Hunter Biden said Massimov was his "close friend."
That close friend has now been arrested for attempting to overthrow the government of Kazakhstan. pic.twitter.com/Wrodpmpzzo
Where does this rabbit hole lead?