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Kazakh Journalist’s Killing Sends Chill Through Exiles in Ukraine

A small crowd of mourners gathered on Friday for the funeral of the Kazakh opposition activist and YouTuber Aidos Sadykov, who was assassinated in Kyiv, Ukraine — a killing that colleagues said had cast a chill over journalists and exiles in Ukraine and the wider region.

A former opposition politician and trade unionist, Mr. Sadykov, 55, lived in Ukraine after fleeing Kazakhstan, his homeland, with his family 10 years ago. He was granted political asylum in Ukraine and, with his wife, ran a widely followed YouTube Channel covering events in Kazakhstan.

He was shot last month outside their home, and died of his injuries earlier this week. Natalia Sadykova, his widow and a journalist, has laid the blame for her husband’s death on President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan.

“Aidos gave his life for Kazakhstan. He died a martyr’s death at the hands of killers,” she wrote on her Facebook page, announcing his death. “For 13 days, Aidos fought for his life in the I.C.U., but there was no miracle. His death is on Tokayev’s conscience.”

The president of Kazakhstan has not addressed Ms. Sadykova’s accusations directly. He announced soon after the shooting that he had ordered his officials to learn details of the incident and if necessary would offered Ukraine assistance in its investigation.

The Ukrainian prosecutor general has named two citizens of Kazakhstan as suspects in the shooting, and announced that the case was a murder investigation. The two individuals escaped the country via neighboring Moldova, according to the prosecutor.

One of the suspects turned himself in on his return to Kazakhstan and was being questioned, according to a statement from the Kazakhstan prosecutor’s office. The second man remains at large.

Ms. Saydkova was beside her husband in their car on June 18 as they drove into the courtyard of their home. In an interview, she said she saw a man holding a pistol with a silencer open fire at the car. He shot her husband in the head through the windshield, she said.

Mr. Sadykov was taken to a hospital and survived in a coma for two weeks before succumbing to his wounds. He leaves behind his wife and three children, ages 13, 12 and 5.

When they lived in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic in Central Asia, both Mr. Sadykov and Ms. Sadykova were the targets of prosecutions that they said were politically motivated. He spent two years in prison, and she faced the prospect of imprisonment when they fled.

Mr. Sadykov was an outspoken critic of the Kazakh government and had long been active in organizing strikes and protests, in particular among oil workers. His YouTube channel, named Base (pronounced Ba-zay), has more than one million subscribers and was a source of irritation for the government, friends at the funeral said.

Many followers inside Kazakhstan would send in videos of protests and police brutality, which the channel would post, undermining the official accounts of events, said Vladimir Kozlov, a former political prisoner in Kazakhstan.

Refat Chubarov, the leader of the Crimean Tatar movement in Ukraine, spoke at the funeral in a Muslim community center in a suburb southwest of Kyiv, and suggested the real culprit was President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Crimean Tatars suffered centuries of oppression under Moscow’s rule, and most were forcibly resettled to Central Asia in the 1940s.

“Aidos was killed by those who don’t want a free and independent Kazakhstan,” he said, standing beside Mr. Sadykov’s body, which was laid on a wooden bier and covered with a cloth of green and gold, “He was killed in our country. It can only have been done by those who want to destroy all of us. I don’t know who did this, but it is clear it is coming from the enemy of us all, from one center, Moscow.”

The assassination was a message to all Kazakhs, Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars and the wider community, he said. “Everyone who thinks this war will not touch them, they should think again.”

International journalists’ organizations have deplored the killing and called for a full investigation.

“Journalists must be free to operate without fear of retribution, and Aidos’ killing while in asylum is deeply suspicious,” Anthony Bellanger, general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, said in a statement. “Those responsible must be held to account.”

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Nathan is an experienced journalist. He's covered a broad spectrum of topics, including politics, culture, and human interest stories, always aiming to engage and inform his audience. Nathan has a degree in Journalism and upholds the highest standards of integrity and accuracy in his work.

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