DrSerious riots continue in the Republic of Kazakhstan. Russia’s state-run news agency TASS, citing its local correspondents, reported that the city of Almaty witnessed a „violent exchange of fire” between dozens of militants and the army in front of the city hall on Thursday. 300 soldiers were moved in armored personnel carriers. They would surround the arena.
Police spokesman Sultanat Asyerbek told Interfax-Kazakhstan, TASS and RIA Novosti agencies that „extremist forces” tried to storm administrative buildings as well as headquarters and several police stations in Almaty. Dozens of attackers were „eliminated”. Agence France-Presse and Reuters report.
The Kazakh media Vlast reported in the news channel Telegram, that there were no longer protesters and soldiers in the center of Almaty. Several supermarkets and stores, including an arms dealer’s, were looted. In addition, several ATMs were blown up. “There is a pungent smell of fire in the city.”
In contrast, videos from Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana) showed how public life began on the new day. You can see cars and buses in the streets, but also you can see a large number of security forces who have closed government buildings. At the city airport, all flights were canceled until noon. The state of emergency applies throughout the country. Long queues formed in front of some banks.
The biggest wave of protests in years was driven by resentment over significantly higher fuel prices at petrol stations in the oil and gas-rich former Soviet republic. In response to the protests, some of which were violent, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev dismissed the government before the military’s intervention in Almaty Thursday night.
The controversy over „peacekeepers”
Previously, the dispatch of foreign soldiers to Kazakhstan by a Russian-led military coalition had raised fears of a further escalation of the situation in the former Soviet republic. It was said that NATO soldiers should be deployed for a limited period of time „in order to stabilize and normalize the situation in the country”. However, the Kazakh government requested this assistance after its forces used armed violence against protesters critical of the government. The United States and the European Union called for moderation on all sides and called for a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
The Moscow-led military coalition had earlier announced that it would send „peacekeepers” to troubled Kazakhstan. The current head of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, said on Facebook on Thursday that the deployment of troops for a „limited period” decides to „stabilize and normalize” the situation in Kazakhstan.
The head of the Kazakh state, Kassym Shumart Tokayev, had previously requested assistance from the coalition. The alliance includes six former Soviet states, including Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
He said the weekend riots „are not a threat, but they undermine the integrity of the state.” In a televised speech, he declared „maximum hardship” against „lawbreakers.” He extended the state of emergency that was already in place in Almaty and the capital, Nur-Sultan, due to mass protests across the country.
According to the Kazakh authorities, at least eight police officers and soldiers were killed. Several Kazakh Telegram channels posted videos on Thursday evening that were said to show military action against protesters in the urban area of the economic city of Almaty. The sounds of gunshots can be heard on the recordings and people screaming.
And the Kazakh TV channel „Khabar 24” announced in the morning that the security forces would continue to suppress the demonstrators. „The anti-terrorist operation to restore order will continue in Almaty,” she added. The Russian state agency, RIA Novosti, reported that military vehicles had collected the bodies in the city. Banks have also stopped operating for the time being.
The internet is turned off again
Laying down the information is made more difficult by the frequent Internet bans in Kazakhstan. The network was closed for hours on Wednesday – likely to make new meetings more difficult. Several television stations stopped working. The Russian state agency TASS reported that on Thursday evening, the websites of the authorities, the police and the airports could not be reached again. Internet sites such as the state news agency Kazinform and other media were also not available from Germany.
According to Tass, there was a complete failure of the Internet in the city of Almaty, which paralyzed social networks as a central coordination tool for protesters. The mobile phone network in the economic capital has also died.
On Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom list, the former Soviet republic ranks 155th out of 180 countries. „In the past few years, the government of Kazakhstan has silenced nearly all opposition media with demands for damages and targeted attacks on journalists,” the organization’s website said. “There are no longer any important TV channels, no media programs on the radio, but mainly state-imposed music and news. Defamation is a criminal offense and punishable if the government is criticized. Many journalists censor themselves.”
Unprecedented protests erupted in Kazakhstan over resentment over rising prices for liquefied gas at gas stations. Many Kazakhs use this gas because it is cheaper than gasoline. Many protesters also directed their resentment against the government and blamed them for their poor living conditions as daily life became more expensive due to high inflation.
The country with a population of over 18 million people borders on other countries with Russia and China. It is rich in oil and gas reserves. The republic is also one of the largest producers of uranium in the world. However, Kazakhstan struggles with mismanagement and poverty.