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Thursday, December 01, 2022

Former Soviet states send troops to Kazakhstan to help ease unrest

Former Soviet states send troops to Kazakhstan to help ease unrest

Almaty, Kazakhstan — A Russian-led security coalition has sent deadly violence to Kazakhstan amid reports that dozens of protesters and police have been killed in unrest in the country.

On Thursday, after setting state buildings on fire in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced on Facebook that an unspecified number of peacekeepers would travel to Kazakhstan.

Russian state media agencies Interfax and Tass quoted a spokesman for the Almaty police as saying that tens of thousands of rioters in the city had been “eliminated”.

Reuters reported that 13 members of security forces were killed in clashes with protesters in the city. Quoting Kazakh state TV.

Police and government officials were not immediately available to comment on the report or provide more details.

Initially triggered by anger over fuel price hikes, protests quickly spread to widespread opposition from President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev, who retained significant power despite leaving in 2019 after ruling for nearly three decades .

Former Soviet States Send Troops To Kazakhstan To Help Ease Unrest

Nazarbayev, 81, is widely seen as the main political force in Nur-Sultan, the purpose-built capital named after him. His family is believed to control the largest economy in Central Asia. He has not been seen or heard since the protest began.

The Central Asian nation’s reputation for stability under Nazarbayev helped it attract hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign investment in its oil and metals industries.

But a younger generation is demanding the liberalization seen in other former satellite states of the Soviet Union. The protests are the worst in more than a decade in Kazakhstan, a country five times the size of France with a population of about 19 million people.

Apparently in an attempt to placate public anger, Tokayev fired Nazarbayev as head of the powerful Security Council on Wednesday, and took it upon himself. He also appointed a new head of the Committee of State Security, the successor of the Soviet-era KGB, and removed Nazarbayev’s nephew from the rank of No.

Tokayev’s cabinet also resigned.

Russian news agency Interfax quoted an official as saying the airport was later cleared of protesters. Reuters was not able to independently confirm the report.

Earlier, riot police used tear gas and flash grenades against protesters in Almaty, but then appeared to back down.

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In his second televised speech within hours, in the early hours of Thursday, Tokayev said he had appealed for help from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the military alliance of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

He said foreign-trained “terrorist” gangs were seizing buildings, infrastructure and weapons, and had taken five aircraft, including foreign ones, to Almaty airport.

“This is an undermining of the integrity of the state and most importantly, it is an attack on our citizens, who are asking me … to help them immediately,” Tokayev said.

“Almaty was attacked, destroyed, ransacked, the inhabitants of Almaty became victims of attacks by terrorists, bandits. Therefore it is our duty to take all possible steps to defend our state.”

Russian news agencies quoted Russian space agency Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin as saying that security was tightened around key installations at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, which Russia uses for space launches.

A resident of Almaty, who met the protesters on Wednesday, said most of the people they met came from the poor outskirts of the city or from nearby villages.

The resident said that vodka was being distributed at the main square and some people were discussing whether to head to the city market or go to a wealthy area for possible loot.

“There is complete chaos on the street,” he said.

Footage posted on the Internet showed protesters chanting beneath a giant bronze statue of Nazarbayev, tied to ropes, in an apparent attempt to pull it down. A woman who posted it said that it was filmed in the eastern city of Taldykorgan.

Early on Wednesday, Reuters journalists saw thousands of protesters marching towards the Almaty city center, while in the city of Aktobe, protesters gathered shouting: “Old man, go away!” A video online showed police using water cannons and stun grenades near the mayor’s office.

A state of emergency was declared in Nur-Sultan, Almaty and the western province of Mangistau. Internet was turned off.

After accepting the cabinet’s resignation, Tokayev ordered caretaker ministers to reverse the hike in fuel prices, doubling the cost of liquefied petroleum gas, widely used for vehicles in Kazakhstan.

The Kremlin has said it expects Kazakhstan, a close ally, to resolve its internal problems quickly, warning other countries against interference. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Russia’s allegations that the United States had instigated the unrest were false.

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