In December 2011, an oil workers’ strike in the city of Zhanaozen in south-west Kazakhstan dissolved into a riot. Security forces opened fire on protesters. According to unofficial statistics, up to 64 people were killed and 400 wounded. Novaya Gazeta correspondent Elena Kostyuchenko arrived in Zhanaozen immediately after the disturbances and wrote about what she saw. Half a year later, Kostyuchenko chose to return to the city — but found herself unable to write anything. Now she explains why.
I had 12,000 roubles on my card, which I thought would be enough. For some reason, I didn’t want to ask our editorial team to cover the trip. I didn’t even want to mention it to them. I agreed with my colleague Artemyeva that she would cover for me. For several nights in a row, I took a taxi to the airport, planning to buy a ticket and fly there and then. But every time, I arrived too late and didn’t make it. I would return home on the airport express train. I finally boarded a flight on my fourth attempt.