Fact check: How Armenian, Kazakh and Azerbaijani press covered Qaraghandy New Year’s Brawl

The bar brawl that took place on New Year’s Eve in one of the restaurants in the town of  Qaraghandy in Kazakhstan was in the center of attention of the Armenian and Kazakh mass media for about two weeks. While following the information flows, obviously it was difficult to draw the determination line between fake and evidence-based information. Officials say a man was killed by knife and three others were injured. The fight attracted the attention of Armenia’s and Kazakhstan’s public, as in the center of the spreading information was the fake news that the incident was nothing more than an ethnic conflict between Armenians and Kazakhs.

According to Kazakh sources, three of the eight suspects were Armenians. Torgom and Sokhak Malkhasyans (cousins) and Qaiyr Nadyrbekov were arrested in connection with the incident. The third Armenian suspect – Narek Gururyan crossed the border with Russia and was declared wanted by police. Afterwards, he was arrested by the enforcement agencies of Russia. The issue of his extradition to Kazakhstan is currently being resolved.

Earlier Gururyan made an announcement by video message saying that he acknowledged his participation in the brawl but insisted that he did not kill anyone. He will take nobody’s sin on himself. He mentioned that he is ready to surrender himself to the Kazakh Police if they provide his security. The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan has promised to ensure his security.


The town of Qaraghandy has about 1.5 million population and is located in the central part of Kazakhstan. Officials say about 30.000 Armenians live there, and according to unofficial data about 100.000 Armenians, 5000 out of which inhabit in the surroundings of Qaraghandy and 2000 – just in Qaraghandy.

Kazakh website referring the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan shared the chronology of Qaraghandy’s case, according to which 14 people took part in the brawl. The main reason for the fight was the fact that the staff of “Ancient Rome” restaurant warned the customers that the restaurant was going to close at 4 a.m. The customers had no wish to leave the restaurant. A fight broke out which was the main reason for the brawl according the data of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan. The customers were made leave the restaurant. After short time they returned with fiends and the brawl broke out.

Protest actions followed the incident with about 200 people participation. According to Kazakh mass media they demanded justice and clarification from the authorities.

However, the rumors on the incident were more provocative in the information field. Some Armenian, Kazakh and Azerbaijan media spread this news as an ethnic clash, without any evidence-based facts. As a denial of this information, Armenian Embassy in Kazakhstan made a statement calling on the mass media to refrain from spreading unverified information and from giving ethnic coloring to the incident. Kazakh authorities also denies the version that the brawl broke out on the basis of national motives. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs the two groups involved in the incident had representatives of different nations.

The Kazakh online media ”Base” ( evidently makes anti-Armenian statements. In its 4-minute video the media provides some information about the incident clearly emphasizing the nationalities of suspects and the victim.

Unprofessional coverage of some Armenian news sources

Armenian news sources referred these cases touching upon as Kazakh media, as its own sources the latter providing unverified information in some cases.

In the first days of January a lot of hateful titles and articles could be found in the Armenian media, such as ”Protest in Kazakhstan”, ”Burn the Armenians”, ” Anti-Armenian rally in Kazakhstan”, ”Protest demonstrations of the town of Qaraghandy in Kazakhstan” and others. However, the Kazakh sources do not mention the expression ”Burn the Armenians” used in the Armenian press about the demonstrations in Qaraghandy. Meanwhlie, publications of ‘‘such’’ calls by the Kazakh population may be encountered in the Azerbaijani sources.

The official dialogue between the two states’ public officials, as well as the statements began to activate only a week after the incident from January 7. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Ombudsmen and Security Council Secretaries of Armenia and Kazakhstan had phone converstaions. The sides noted that the attempts to give ethnic coloring to the household nature incident are unacceptable.

Why Azerbaijani press was so active? 

The Azerbaijan press had the largest part for the unverified information being widely spread in the Armenian and Kazakh media trying to use the opportunity to make anti-Armenian propaganda and break the Armenian-Kazakh relations.

One of the public figure of the Azerbaijan says, ”despite that Armenians are actively engaged in public life in Kazakhstan, they don’t hide their aggression against the local population, as a result of which this murder occurred”.

The Azerbaijan propaganda was not limited to publications in Russian. The Armenian version of the CBC news website was actively covering what had happened in Qaraghandy in recent days, adding the “conquer policitics” of the Armenians in the Artsakh issue.

The Azerbaijan news website represented Astana-Yervan-Astana round-trip flight suspension by Kazakhstan’s SCAT Airlines as continuation of Qaraghandy’s incident. Meanwhile, the Kazakhstan airline has officially informed that it will temporarily suspend the flights only from 2019 January 15 until May 15.

In general the Azerbaijan press tried to give ethnic coloring to the issue and present Armenia-Kazakhstan relations tension as a result of the incident ignoring the official statements of both Kazakh and Armenian sides.

by Ampop Media

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First Published: 03/02/2019