Dozens of protesters, police killed as demonstrations turn more violent in Kazakhstan

Protests in Kazakhstan over rising fuel prices grew more deadly this week, with authorities reporting on January 6, 2022 that dozens of protesters and police officers were killed in the demonstrations and subsequent police crackdown.

A police spokesman, Sultanat Azirbek, told state news channel Khabar-24 on Wednesday that dozens of demonstrators had been “eliminated”, which is his term to describe the killings of those whom police believe to be extremists.

The news channel said city officials said 353 people were injured and 12 officers were killed.

While fuel prices nearly doubled originally sparked protests, many have also expressed dissatisfaction with the country’s ruling party, which took power in 1991 after gaining independence from the Soviet Union, and continues to be the country’s parliament today. 80 percent seats are occupied.

On January 5, protesters armed with clubs and shields stormed the presidential residence and the mayor’s office in the city hall building in the country’s largest city, Almaty.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s government made some concessions, such as announcing a 180-day cap on fuel prices and a temporary ban on raising utility prices, with Tokayev resigning and leading the national security government. intention has been accepted. Council

However, Tokayev also said that government forces would act with “maximum seriousness” against anyone viewed as “breakers of the law” and revealed new measures to prevent protesters from taking to the streets again. Haven’t happened.

Kazakhstan declared a nationwide state of emergency after protests over a hike in fuel prices and protesters stormed government buildings. Above, protesters in Almaty on January 5, 2022.
Photo by Abduaziz Madyarov/AFP via Getty Images

Police were out in force again on Thursday, including in the capital of Nur-Sultan, which was reportedly calm, and Russian troops were on their way.

Russia’s Sputnik news service reported that a group of about 200 protesters were fired upon as police surrounded the city. The Home Ministry said 2,000 people have been arrested so far.

Concerns grew after a Russian-led military coalition was called in for help that broader action could be on the horizon. Serious disruptions to internet service also raised concerns and made it difficult – sometimes impossible – to get out to news of what was happening inside Kazakhstan. In other apparent attempts to lock down the country, airports in Almaty and another city have also been closed.

The Military Coalition, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, said early Thursday that it would send peacekeepers to Kazakhstan at Tokayev’s request.

The operation is the first military action by the CSTO – a sign that Kazakhstan’s neighbors, particularly Russia, are concerned that unrest could spread.

Russia and Kazakhstan share close ties and share a 7600-kilometre (4700 mi) border, much of it with open plains. Russia’s manned space-launching facility is in Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.

The size and duties of the peacekeeping force have not been specified. According to the CSTO, Russia has already started sending troops, which also include Kazakhstan, Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. But the spokesman for Kyrgyzstan’s president, Erbol Sutanbaev, said his country’s contingent must be approved by parliament and added that the military would not take actions involving protesters.

It was not immediately clear whether any Russian forces had entered Kazakhstan.

The unrest could also cause serious concern in China. Kazakhstan shares a 1,800-kilometre (1,000-mile)-long border with China’s Xinjiang region, where Beijing has launched an all-out campaign to end separatist sentiment among Muslim minority groups, who share cultural, cultural, and ethnic differences with people from Central Asia. share religious and linguistic ties.

However, in a daily briefing on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin dismissed any possibility of China joining the current crisis in line with Beijing’s strict official non-intervention policy.

“What is happening in Kazakhstan is an internal matter of the country (and) we believe that the Kazakh authorities can properly resolve this issue,” he said.

Tokayev has imposed a two-week state of emergency across the country, which includes an overnight curfew and a ban on religious services. This comes as a blow to Kazakhstan’s large number of Orthodox Christian populations who celebrate Christmas on Fridays.

Of the five Central Asian republics that gained independence after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan is by far the largest and wealthiest, spanning an area the size of Western Europe and rich in oil, natural gas, uranium, and precious metals. Situated above the huge storehouse. , In addition to its long border with Russia, it also shares with China, and its oil and mineral wealth make it strategically and economically important.

But despite Kazakhstan’s natural wealth and a solid middle class, financial hardship is widespread, and discontent over poor living conditions in some parts of the country remains strong. Many Kazakhs also shy away from the dominance of the ruling party, which has more than 80 percent of the seats in parliament.

There appears to be no identifiable leader or demand in the protests. Much of the anger displayed in recent days was directed not at Tokayev, but at the country’s first president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who continued to exert enormous influence even after his 2019 resignation. The protesters shouted “Shawl Ket!” (“Old Man Go”), a clear reference to Nazarbayev, who dominated Kazakhstan’s politics and whose rule was marked by a moderate cult of personality.

At the start of the year, prices of a fuel called liquefied petroleum gas nearly doubled as the government moved away from price controls as part of efforts to move to a market economy.

The price limit for LPG, announced by the government on Thursday, is 75 ten (17 cents) per liter; At the beginning of the year, the average price was around 120 teng (27 cents).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

almaty, kazakhstan, protest, fire
News outlets in Kazakhstan are reporting that protesters protesting rising fuel prices broke into the mayor’s office in the country’s largest city and flames were seen from inside. Above, smoke rises from the City Hall building during a protest in Almaty, Kazakhstan, January 5, 2022.
Yan Blagov/AP Photo