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Ukraine’s Security Service attacks Kazakh activists in Kyiv

Kazakh opposition activists Zamanbek Tleuliev (left) and Yeldos Nasipbekov.
Kazakh opposition activists Zamanbek Tleuliev (left) and Yeldos Nasipbekov. Photo: Lyudmyla Kozlovska/Facebook
Edited by: Alya Shandra

In the evening of 6 January, people identifying themselves as Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) officers assaulted Zamanbek Tleuliev and Yeldos Nasipbekov, Kazakh opposition activists and coordinators of the peaceful opposition movement Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DCK), Lyudmila Kozlovska, chair of the human rights NGO Open Dialogue Foundation, reported on her Facebook page.

Although the SBU officers wore no uniforms and presented no documents, they were clearly the attackers, since they commented on the meeting with the activists later on.

The activists monitor the violence of Kazakh authorities against peaceful protesters in Almaty and coordinate activists in Kazakhstan.
This has led Ukrainian human rights experts to voice concerns that Ukraine’s Security Service may be cooperating with the relevant Russian and Kazakh agencies.

Kazakhstan activists attacked

The SBU officers beat up Tieuliev, leaving bruises and knocking out four teeth. This happened in the presence of police officers who were filming the assault.

When Tleuliev’s neighbours came out to see what was happening, the security officers stopped beating him and one of them, Yehor Kosov, showed his ID on the activist’s demand.

When Tleuliev’s lawyers came, the SBU officers left and the police explained their arrival as an inspection of migration documents. The Kazakh activist submitted a complaint about the assault.

Meanwhile, the SBU headed by Oleksandr Kapitaniuk paid a visit to Nasipbekov’s home. They made the activist sign a refusal from engaging in political activities in Kazakhstan and a statement of no claims against the SBU’s officers.

The security officers forced the activist to stop filming and communicating on social media during the meeting. They made a video recording of him signing the papers.

Moreover, they threatened to deport Nasipbekov to Kazakhstan if he went public with this incident. During the visit, SBU officer Kapitaniuk assured the Kazakh activist that if plans existed for his kidnapping, this would have happened long ago, and that the SBU merely came to “have an official chat.”

SBU’s response

On 6 January, the Security Service of Ukraine told Ukrainska Pravda that its officers had a polite meeting with the activists to ensure the safety of Ukrainian citizens. The state agency claims that they tried to avert Russia’s possible provocations aimed at demonizing Ukraine in the international arena.

Maksym Butkevych, coordinator of the project “Without Borders” is concerned with this justification with regard to Tleuliev and Nasipbekov. He mentions that references to “state security” allow the SBU to de jure forcibly deport activists within a day but de facto give them into the hands of the Kazakhstan regime without a long and complex extradition procedure.

Moreover, the SBU claimed the security officers acted in a civilized manner and did not prevent the Kazakh activists from recording the meetings. The SBU claims that the Kazakh activists reside in Kyiv illegally.

Why is this not a polite conversation with illegal immigrants

On 8 January, Tleuliev issued a statement refuting SBU’s explanation. Referring to the words of security officers, the activist thinks this was a direct political threat against him.

In the statement, Tleuliev emphasizes that the Kazakh activists were attacked:

The SBU officers beat me up on my way home. I now live in the Vyshneve region near Kyiv. This is my home. They knocked out 4 teeth with a door and seriously damaged another tooth. It happened on 6 January 2022, on the eve of Christmas at approximately 7 pm. At the same time, the SBU officers came with threats to my colleague Yeldos Nasipbekov.”

Second, Tleuliev stated he is a legal migrant in Ukraine:

“I crossed the border officially. In Ukraine, in October 2019, I applied for political asylum. Unfortunately, I was turned down and now I am in the process of appealing. Every several months, my permit to stay in Ukraine is prolonged. I do not hide, I conduct public activities, I speak out openly against Russian occupation of both Ukraine and Kazakhstan.”

The activist recalls threats he received from SBU officer Yehor Kosov:

“You will speak your words of resistance in Kazakhstan, if you remain alive. I’m in power here and you don’t need to teach me how to observe your rights.”

Tetiana Pechonchyk, head of the board at Ukrainian human rights center ZMINA confirmed that both activists are legal residents of Ukraine.

This is not the first case of Ukraine pressuring opposition activists from neighbour states, noted Tetiana Pechonchyk. Also, Kozlovska added that for the past ten years, Open Dialogue Fund registered dozens of incidents when Kazakhstan abused international cooperation mechanisms to persecute opposition activists abroad.


Western Kazakhstan has seen protests since January 2. Rising gas prices were their formal reason. Mass protests began in the city of Zhanaozen and spread to other cities. In response, the police stepped up security and arrested activists and journalists.

From 5 January, the protests turned violent, with attacks on the police and the protesters, and the internet being cut off.

Kazakhstan government used convicts for pogroms preceding Russian-led intervention, founder says

The President of Kazakhstan declared a state of emergency in the capital Nur Sultan. The government of Kazakhstan was dismissed.

On 7 January, the Kazakhstan army was instructed to shoot at the protesters whom President Tokayev named “bandits and terrorists.”

Russia and The Collective Security Treaty Organization states sent troops to Kazakhstan to suffocate the protests. The Kazakh authorities claimed that they had almost stopped the protests and restored “order.”

Edited by: Alya Shandra
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