Monday, January 17

Kazakhstan expert: – Going out on the streets now is life threatening

MILITARY: Soldiers from Russia land at an airport in Kazakhstan to assist the president of the country in cracking down on the rebels.

– Almaty looks like a war zone, says Kazakhstan expert and senior adviser in the Helsinki Committee, Ivar Dale.

On Friday morning, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called on military forces to fire on rebels without warning. He says “the armed bandits will be destroyed.”

Especially in Almaty, it is very dangerous to move now, says Ivar Dale, senior professional adviser to the Helsinki Committee. He has lived in Kazakhstan for many years.

– Going out on the street now is life threatening, you can be hit by shots anywhere. I have sent messages to friends begging them not to go out, Dale tells VG.

However, he does not receive a reply to the messages. After several years living in Almaty, Dale has many friends and contacts in the country that he is now very worried about.

– The authorities have closed all of the internet and telephone lines in large parts of the country, so there is no answer. When we still occasionally receive news from the country, it may be people with satellite phones, or if someone is so close to the border with Kyrgyzstan that they may get coverage, Dale says to VG.

ARREST: Police arrest a protester in Almaty on Wednesday this week.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against travel

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs now advises against all travel to Kazakhstan that is not strictly necessary, the ministry writes in a press release Friday morning.

Norwegian citizens in the country are encouraged to keep calm and to follow developments in local and international media.

Early Friday morning Norwegian time, the President of Kazakhstan announced that the constitutional order in the country had been restored, but in a speech to the people a few hours later, the message was that he had asked soldiers to shoot rebels without warning.

The president receives assistance from a Russian-led military alliance to quell the widespread protests in the country.

At least 26 people have been killed in the unrest, according to Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry.

RUSSIAN AID: Russia leads a military alliance set up to assist the president in cracking down on protests.

“Grotesque rich” elite

The background for the protests is a long history of repressed dissatisfaction among the people based on very large differences in prosperity between the privileged in the country and most people, says Dale.

He says Kazakhstan is really the success story in the Central Asian context and is seen as a different country where it is stable and clean and tidy, much thanks to large natural resources. The world community has largely ignored the very authoritarian system of government and the exclusion of the opposition from the public, he believes.

– The frustration from people has grown and grown and is swept under the rug. People are increasingly seeing how the elite live, especially the family around the president, who is grotesquely rich with spectacular properties in Europe. Ordinary people have a hard time.

It peaked when liquefied gas prices recently rose sharply, says Dale.

– This had major consequences for the many who live in areas where there are large distances and you have to drive a long way to get to the next city, the professional adviser explains to VG.

CONCERNED: Senior adviser to the Helsinki Committee, Ivar Dale, has lived in Kazakhstan for several years and is very concerned about the state of the country now.

War zone

Dale in the Helsinki Committee says the major protests are still ongoing. The police have probably taken control of some of the symbolic places in the capital, but in the country’s largest city, Almaty, it is still very tense, he says.

– Almaty looks like a war zone. In the videos from there that are broadcast on Telegram channels, you hear that machine guns go, Dale says to VG.

Kazakhstani expert Dale followed Tokayev’s speech on Friday with a sense of uneasiness:

– Indirectly, he blames local unrest and journalists for the unrest and violence. It makes me very worried about how they will be treated in the future.

SUPPORT: Activists in Kiev take to the streets to show their support for those protesting in Kazakhstan

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