2300 people arrested in Almaty. Security forces have cracked down on protesters. Paratroopers from Russia monitor curfews in the streets.
In addition to the mass arrests, police report having “eliminated” a dozen protesters in Almaty, Kazakhstan, according to the news agency Interfax.
Several sources tell of how the security forces fired on the protesters.
– We saw that they died. Ten protesters were killed immediately, a 58-year-old woman told AFP.
There are many indications that the protests have been sharply reduced. All squares and places where the protesters took control must now be cleared.
A bloody day in Kazakhstan
The Russian news agency Tass reported earlier on Thursday that shooting was taking place outside the mayor’s office in the Kazakh city. The news agency AFP also quotes various media outlets that a dozen protesters have been killed.
How many died is unknown.
The Ministry of the Interior reports that at least 18 people from the security forces have lost their lives during the mass demonstrations in the country. These are policemen and soldiers from the National Guard. Authorities claim that one of the dead security officers was found with his head cut off.
At 14 Norwegian time, a new shooting and an explosion were reported in the center of Almaty, according to Reuters. Tass also reported that soldiers fired on protesters. Eyewitnesses are said to have seen several injured after the incident.
There has been great unrest in the country since January 2, when protesters took to the streets to protest a sharp rise in the price of fuel. At the same time, the demonstrations are seen in connection with a greater dissatisfaction with an authoritarian political regime.
Over 1000 injured
Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Health reports that more than 1,000 people have been injured in recent days of unrest.
More than 1,000 people have been injured in the wake of unrest in various regions of Kazakhstan. Nearly 400 of them are in hospital, and 62 people are receiving intensive care, says Deputy Health Minister Azhar Guiniyat according to the Russian news agencies Tass and Interfax.
2300 people have been arrested during the riots in Almaty, police say.
Price jumps started violent riots
A two-week state of emergency has been imposed and military troops with armored vehicles have been deployed against the protesters.
News videos from the city of Tass show armed soldiers advancing on foot, while constantly firing shock and tear gas grenades, and firing small arms.
Videos on social media also show looted shops, buildings on fire, shooting from automatic weapons and residents screaming in fear. The Internet in the country has been shut down from time to time in recent days.
The protests that started the crisis began in the dusty, western oil city of Janaozen. There, the inhabitants have long been frustrated and angry that the region’s oil wealth has not been fairly distributed. The population also carries an anger after violent incidents in the city in 2011. At that time, the police shot and killed at least 15 people who protested in support of oil workers who were fired after a strike.
When the new year began with fuel prices doubling, dissatisfaction bubbled up in the city. The unrest quickly spread to nearby cities – and after only a few days, the protests erupted over large parts of the country.
On Thursday, the government announced that a price cap on gas has been introduced for the next six months, in the hope that this will alleviate the unrest.
The protesters call them terrorists
The President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, describes the protesters as “terrorists” and claims that many of them have received training abroad.
Authorities describe the operation against the protesters as anti-terrorism, writes Interfax.
Kasym-Jomart Tokayev’s repeated calls for calm have been ignored. Early Thursday, the president said in a televised speech that he had asked the Russian-led security alliance CTSO for help in fighting what he calls “terrorist groups” that have “received extensive training abroad.”
The CSTO collective security pact is a military alliance between Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
The sign of instability in Kazakhstan is causing considerable concern in Kazakhstan’s two powerful neighbors: Russia and China. The country sells most of its oil exports to China and is an important strategic ally of the Moscow government.
From Crimea and Syria to Kazakhstan
On Thursday, the first soldiers from Russia and Belarus arrived in Kazakhstan.
The Security Pact has never before been used for such an operation. This is also the first time since the dissolution of the Soviet Union that Kazakhstan allows Russian soldiers to be sent to the country.
- The Russian paratroopers are special forces from the 45th Airborne Brigade.
- The brigade participated in both the wars in Chechnya and the invasion of Georgia in 2008.
- It was also used when Russia annexed Crimea. They have also participated in the Syrian war.
“Peacekeeping forces from the CTSO have been sent to Kazakhstan for a limited period of time to normalize the situation,” the organization said in a statement.
In addition, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan will also send troops.
A total of 3,000 Russian soldiers are involved in the operation, according to Eurasianet.
“Their mission is to protect important state and military facilities and assist the police forces in stabilizing the situation,” the statement from CTSO said.
The soldiers have already been deployed to enforce the curfew.
Big differences create anger
Kazakhstan has 19 million inhabitants. The country is located in Central Asia and borders Russia, China, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. It also borders the Caspian Sea.
The country is the world’s ninth largest, measured by area.
Of the five Central Asian republics that gained independence after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan is by far the largest and richest. The country spans a territory the size of Western Europe and is one of the world’s richest countries in important natural reserves such as oil, natural gas, uranium and precious metals.
But while Kazakhstan’s natural wealth has given the country a solid middle class, and not least a significant group of ultra-rich finance princes, the foot soldiers are struggling with great economic difficulties.
The average national monthly salary is just over 5,000 kroner. Non-performing loans have triggered deep crises in the banking system. Nepotism and corruption to varying degrees exist in large parts of society.
On December 16, 1991, the country declared itself an independent nation. Nursultan Nazarbayev, a Soviet-era Communist leader, was the only candidate to run for office and was named president. He clung to power for 29 years, through, among other things, strict control of the power apparatus and the country’s media.
The authorities in Kazakhstan have long suppressed critical voices. Opposition groups and critics have either been effectively sidelined, harassed or imprisoned.
In 2021, the country was ranked number 155 out of 180 countries on the press freedom index the organization Reporters Without Borders.
The president got the capital named after him
In 2019, Nazarbayev completely unexpectedly announced his own resignation.
It happened after many years of internal discontent in the country and international criticism of repression and abuse of opposition figures.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev from the ruling Nur Otan party won the presidential election the same year with 71 percent of the vote. The election was criticized by a number of international organizations that observed the election campaign and the conduct of the election.
On the same day that Tokayev took the presidency, he proposed that the country’s capital, Astana, be renamed Nur-Sultan to honor the resigned president. This was approved by the National Assembly the same day.