Company officials and state authorities finally confirmed on Tuesday that violence had broken out on Friday between more than 300 Kazakh citizens and 100 Turkish citizens at the massive oilfield in the remote west of the country.
Ilyas Omarov, a spokesman for Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry, said 115 Turkish citizens needed medical attention after the dispute in a company dining room escalated out of control.
One Turkish citizen was still being treated in hospital, he said.
Tengizchevroil, the joint venture between the Kazakh state and the US oil giant Chevron that operates the project, said in a statement that “a number of construction offices, vehicles and other facilities were damaged during the incident”.
A few people had been evacuated for medical treatment to the provincial capital Atyrau and others “back to Istanbul for further observation and treatment”, the statement said.
Omarov and a spokesman for Tengizchevroil both denied an allegation made by the Philippines foreign ministry that many workers had died in the clashes.
“There were no deaths whatsoever at Tengiz as a result of this clash,” Omarov said.
Filipino workers had been relocated to a more secure workers’ village within the Tengiz complex, the spokesman for Tengizchevroil said.
Gulnazira Mukhtarova, a spokeswoman for the Atyrau province’s police force, gave a different explanation for the fighting, saying that it began with an argument over administrative procedures in which a Kazakh worker received an “offensive and mocking response” from Turkish counterparts.
“According to the Kazakh workers this isn’t the first case of its kind,” Mukhtarova said.
Large Turkish presence
She added that 1,068 Turkish citizens had been on the site of the Tengiz construction project out of a total 7,044 people.
Launched in 1993, the project is regarded as a flagship for US involvement in this former Soviet republic’s growing energy sector.
Last year Tengizchevroil produced an average of 296,000 barrels of oil per day according to Chevron’s internet site.
Workers have been engaged in a project to expand production and this has meant the arrival of large numbers of sub-contractors and foreign workers, who are housed in purpose-built villages.
Omarov said on Tuesday that there was no reason to see an ethnic cause for Friday’s incident.
Taner Seben, Turkey’s ambassador to Kazakhstan, said he agreed, but added that the incident “affects all Turkish citizens”.