Why the Kozlov Trial Matters for Zhanaozen

Special Issue No. 85, Aug 17, 2012

The trial of Vladimir Kozlov and others that started on August 16 is likely to refocus attention of the international media on the tragic events in Zhanaozen last December. It may also resurrect the public opinion, which in the wake of the Zhanaozen unrest split between those who viewed people on trial as heroes and those of the majority across the country who were shocked at the outrageous level of violence directed against peaceful demonstrators and police officers.

The public opinion, particularly expressed via web-based technology, showed its disgust over the opportunistic twist of the rioters. As reported by Nomad.su, an independent Internet-based newspaper, the majority of those charged, based on their testimonies, did not appear to be brutal looters ready to burn down the town hall with people inside or activists for justice. According to testimony, almost all of them “were simply passing by”.

In January 2012, the Prosecutor General's Office said in a statement that the main reason behind mass disturbances was the actions by individuals who exhorted laid-off workers to continue protests and a standoff with the government. An expert examination found the materials disseminated by those individuals amounted to propaganda and incitement to social hatred, a serious offence as established by the country's legislation.

Over the course of the thorough investigation, a number of leaders and active members of the unregistered "Alga" Party (Forward) and "Khalyk Maidany" coalition (People's Front), including Vladimir Kozlov, 52, Aizhangul Amirova, 40, and Serik Sapargali, 60, were charged with implication to incite social discord.

Mukhtar Ablyazov, 49, former minister of energy, industry and trade, and currently the subject of a legal investigation in the UK High Court for embezzlement of billions of dollars out of the BTA Bank, was named as the main organizer of the Zhanaozen riots. Back in 2002, Ablyazov was convicted by Kazakhstan's Supreme Court for abuse of official powers as a minister and sentenced to 6 years in prison. Following an appeal, he was pardoned by a presidential decree on May 13, 2003.

According to nomad.su, Ablyazov has been the main proponent of regime change in the country through incitement to social hatred and discord, forcible seizure of power, the undermining of the national security and forcible change of the constitutional order. He capitalized on and in some cases inspired and stimulated processes under way in the country by elaborating special operations directed at derogation of the state authorities. He established contacts with foreign politicians and media representatives to produce a negative image of the government in the eyes of the international community. Ablyazov has invested a fortune in contracts with western PR firms that ensure a constant flow of information, spun to reflect exclusively negative aspects of the work of the government.

Muratbek Ketebayev, considered by the prosecution as Ablyazov's closest assistant, currently resides in Finland and is responsible for managing Ablyazov's funds to and the editorial policy of the Ablyazov-controlled media, which includes mudslinging and black PR. He coordinates political, ideological and economic activities of the Alga Party entrusted to Kozlov, oversees recruitment policy and the application of political technologies and interactions with other political entities.

Unlike Muratbek Ketebayev, who works from abroad, Vladimir Kozlov conducted the activities of the group within Kazakhstan. He is characterized as a highly professional political strategist with vast experience in journalism and PR-technologies. Investigators believe he was in charge of the political, ideological and economic activities of the Alga Party and reported to Ketebayev on the acquisition of Ablyazov's funds. According to the investigation, Kozlov personally visited single-industry towns and offered financial and legal assistance in return of instigation of mass protests and an opportunity to control them. According to the prosecution, there were reports of the group's activities to recruit people from among young sportsmen with extremist views who were viewed as a powerful force in organizing mass disturbances in Zhanaozen.

Ablyazov, Ketebayev and Kozlov attached great importance to the shaping of public opinion. Twisted and distorted information about the situation in Zhanaozen was disseminated through Ablyazov-controlled media. In addition, according to the analysis by nomad.su, flyers distributed in Zhanaozen played an important role in manipulating and brainwashing oil workers who were involved in illegal actions. In the opinion of the prosecution, flyers exhorted workers for forcible seizure of power, the undermining of national security, and a forcible change of the constitutional order.

The protest by the OzenMunaiGas (OMG) workers, with a labor dispute and economic demands at its core, has been effectively used by the group, with the help of significant capital infusions, to mobilize them for more radical actions. Despite attempts by the OMG leadership and local authorities to resolve the labor dispute, nomad.su reports, negotiations were sabotaged by the efforts of those who initially used the conflict to further their hidden agenda.

There can be little doubt that the trial of Kozlov and his associates will be conducted under massive pressure from the Ablyazov-controlled media. As nomad.su argues, this pressure only underscores the fairness of applying to the Ablyazov team the punishment as stipulated by the national legislation. Please click here for the translation of the article "Zhanaozen Puppeteers" by Talgat Ibrayev, which originally appeared at www.nomad.su on Aug 2, 2012 and can be viewed here .