Tuesday, January 18

Demonstrations and chaotic riots in Kazakhstan: “dozens” of dead, a thousand injured

“Dozens” of demonstrators were killed by the police and more than a thousand people injured in Kazakhstan, plagued this Thursday and for several days in chaotic demonstrations and riots.

The anger movement, which began on Sunday in the provinces due to a rise in gas prices, then spread to the country’s largest city, Almaty, where it turned into a riot, the demonstrators seizing administrative buildings and briefly the airport, while looting increased.

Faced with chaos, neighboring Russia and its allies of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) announced on Thursday the dispatch of the first contingent of a “collective peacekeeping force” to Kazakhstan, at the request of this authoritarian Central Asian country.

Comprising of Russian, Belarusian, Armenian, Tajik and Kyrgyz troops, their mission will be to “protect state and military installations” and “to help the Kazakh security forces to stabilize the situation and restore the rule of law”.

Kazakhstani President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has so far failed to calm protests despite a concession on gas prices, resignation of the government and the establishment of a state of emergency and a curfew nocturnal in the country.

Police spokesman Saltanat Azirbek as quoted by local media on Thursday reported “tens” demonstrators killed as they tried to seize administrative buildings and police stations.

The Department of Health has injured him on television over a thousand, including 62 people in intensive care. That of the Interior reported the deaths of at least eight members of the security forces.

Stores looted and some administrative buildings set on fire

Images circulated in the media and on social networks showed scenes of chaos with shops looted and some administrative buildings raided and set on fire in Almaty, while automatic weapon fire could be heard.

Against the backdrop of problems in the functioning of the internet, the spokesperson of the Central Bank Oljassa Ramazanova announced the suspension of the work of all financial institutions in the country.

As a result of the chaos, uranium, of which Kazakhstan is one of the main world producers, saw its price sharply increase, while the stock prices of national companies collapsed on the London Stock Exchange. The country is a stronghold of Bitcoin mining, which is also experiencing a sharp fall.

The Kazakh president on Thursday introduced a series of emergency measures aimed at “stabilize the work of public services, transport and infrastructure”, to strengthen the preparation of the security forces and to restore the work of the banks.

The export of certain types of food products has been banned in order to stabilize prices.

“Terrorist gangs”

Mr. Tokayev assured Wednesday that “terrorist gangs” having “received extensive training abroad” lead the demonstrations. “Groups of criminal elements beat our soldiers, humiliate them, drag them naked in the streets, attack women, loot shops”, he denounced in a televised speech Wednesday.

During the previous nights, the police had fired stun grenades and tear gas at the crowd but failed to prevent them from taking control of some administrative buildings.

The anger of the demonstrators directed at the former president

Local media and witnesses on social media reported that the protesters then proceeded to the presidential residence in the city, which they set on fire, along with the city administration building and a television station.

It was impossible on Thursday to have a complete view of the situation in the country, journalists and witnesses could no longer be reached by internet or by phone, who were cut off.

The anger of the demonstrators is particularly directed at the former President Nursultan Nazarbaïv, 81, who reigned over the country from 1989 to 2019 and who retains a great influence. He is considered to be the mentor of the current president, Mr. Tokayev.

Kazakhstan, the largest of the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia and the region’s main economy, has a large minority considered to be ethnically Russian. It is of crucial economic and geopolitical importance for Russia.

Moscow called on Wednesday to resolve the crisis through dialogue “and not by street riots and the violation of laws”.

The United States and the European Union, for their part, have called for “detention” to all parties.


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