Sunday, May 22

“Dozens” of protesters killed by police in Kazakhstan

“Dozens” of protesters were killed by police overnight Wednesday through Thursday as they attempted to seize administrative buildings in Kazakhstan, the country plagued by chaotic 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 the chaos, neighboring Russia and its allies of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have announced the dispatch of a “collective peacekeeping force” to Kazakhstan, at the request of that country. Central Asia.

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.

On Thursday, police spokesman Saltanat Azirbek, quoted by local media, reported “dozens” of protesters killed as they attempted to seize administrative buildings and police stations.

“Last night, extremist forces attempted to storm administrative buildings, the Almaty city police department, as well as local departments and police stations,” he said, adding that an “anti-terrorist” operation was underway in one of the neighborhoods of Almaty.

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.

– “Terrorist gangs” –

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.

According to the Kazakh Interior Ministry quoted by local media, at least eight members of the security forces were killed and 317 injured.

The Kazakh president assured Wednesday that “terrorist gangs” having “received extensive training abroad” are leading the demonstrations.

“Groups of criminal elements are beating our soldiers, humiliating them, dragging them naked in the streets, attacking women, looting shops,” he said in a televised address on Wednesday.

After a night of unrest that saw the arrest of more than 200 people, thousands of protesters stormed the Almaty administration headquarters on Wednesday afternoon, appearing to take control. Police fired stun grenades and tear gas, but could not prevent them from entering, according to AFP journalists.

– Burned buildings –

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.

This ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin had also remained president of the powerful Security Council, but Tokayev announced on Wednesday that he would now exercise this function himself.

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 through street riots and violation of laws”.

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

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