Chants, chaos and control: why the unrest in Kazakhstan should worry the world

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On January 4, thousands of angry protesters against rising prices launched a protest in Almaty (File)


As Russian-led troops sent to help quell bloody unrest in Kazakhstan begin to withdraw, TBEN examines the protests that have left dozens dead and thrown the repressive Central Asian country into chaos.

LPG price hike sparks fury

Protests erupt over the New Year in the town of Zhanaozen in the oil-rich western region of Mangystau over a rise in prices for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which is used for cars.

The unrest is spreading to the regional center of Aktau on the Caspian Sea coast of the former Soviet country.

On January 4, thousands of angry protesters against rising prices take to the streets of Almaty, the largest city, with police firing tear gas and stun grenades.

Emergency state

Later that night, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev imposes a state of emergency in the city and the restive west after saying he would cut the price of LPG.

Many chant “Old Man Out!”, a reference to Tokayev’s ever-powerful predecessor and mentor, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Footage posted to social media later shows a statue of the ex-president being torn down.

Almaty in chaos

Tokayev sacks his cabinet early on January 5 in a bid to avert unprecedented unrest, but protesters gather again, blocking roads and storming Almaty’s local government headquarters.

The mayor’s office and the city’s presidential residence are then set on fire.

Internet and mobile phone networks are cut, the state of emergency extended to the whole country.

“Massive Attacks”

Tokayev accuses the demonstrators of “massive attacks against the security forces” which left several dead and many injured, and claims that the country is under attack by “terrorist” groups.

“I intend to act as tough as possible,” he says.

The White House and the United Nations call on the Kazakh authorities to show “restraint”.

Call to Moscow

Late on January 5, the embattled president appealed for help to quell protests by the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSO).

Videos on social media show looted shops in Almaty and automatic gunfire in the streets. The airport is also ransacked.

Paratroopers led by the Russians are sent.

Dozens dead, 1,000 injured

In a televised address early on January 6, Tokayev said “terrorists” were seizing buildings, infrastructure and small arms and fighting security forces.

Police say they killed “dozens” of protesters overnight as they tried to take over government buildings and police stations. About 2,000 are arrested.

Eighteen security guards were killed and 748 injured in the unrest, local media report. The Ministry of Health says 1,000 people were injured.

In a new effort to calm protesters, the government sets fuel price limits for six months.

But at the end of the afternoon, bursts of gunfire echo through the streets of Almaty. The security forces then clean the central square of the city.

The world is calling for calm

The United Nations and the United States urge all parties to refrain from resorting to violence. The European Union says sending Russian troops “brings back memories of situations to avoid” – a reference to the Prague Spring of 1968 and the brutal Soviet crackdown on the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

‘Shoot to kill’

Tokayev rejects talks with protesters on January 7, saying he gave the order to “shoot to kill without warning”.

He claims Almaty was attacked by “20,000 bandits” with a “clear plan of attack…and high combat readiness”.

On January 11, UN human rights experts criticized the “unbridled use of force” by the Kazakh security forces and the qualification of the demonstrators as “bandits and terrorists”.

Such terms “should not be used to silence those…who protest against social and economic conditions”, they add.

Rare reviews

On the same day, Tokayev raises his eyebrows criticizing his predecessor, saying that “a layer of rich people” has been created under Nazarbayev’s rule and that “the time has come to pay tribute to the people of Kazakhstan and help them systematically and regularly.

On January 12, he visits Almaty, scared by the fighting, and vows to “rebuild the city” on the eve of the withdrawal of the phased withdrawal of the 2,000 Russian-led CSO troops.

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The post Chants, chaos and control: why the unrest in Kazakhstan should worry the world appeared first on The Bharat Express News.


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