politics

Dozens killed as Kazakhstan cracks down on protests

Dozens killed as Kazakhstan cracks down on protests

Dozens of people were killed in Kazakhstan on Thursday as authorities moved against protesters in the Central Asian nation after several days of unrest and a Russia-led alliance of troops from former Soviet states arrived to support local forces. Russian news agency TASS reported that dozens of attackers were killed as they stormed administrative buildings and the police department in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city. They “have been eliminated and their identities are being established, Saltanat Azirbek, a spokeswoman for the city’s police department, said on Kazakh state television channel Khabar 24, according to TASS. The channel also reported that 12 law enforcement officers were killed and more than 350 injured, according to news agency Interfax, reporting from the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan. One of the officers was decapitated, the news agency said, citing reports from Kazakh state media. Authorities also reported that more than 1,000 people have been injured and 400 were hospitalized. Video published by TASS showed soldiers in the streets discharging volleys of machine-gun fire and supported by armored trucks. The protests began on Sunday in Kazakhstan’s western Mangistau region after the government lifted caps on prices for liquefied petroleum gas, the main fuel for cars, causing prices to double. On Wednesday, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russian-led intergovernmental military alliance, said its troops had been sent to Kazakhstan for a limited time “to stabilize and normalize the situation. The force included units of the armed forces of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the CSTO said, noting that the deployment would be for a limited period. Their deployment came after Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said Wednesday that he had sought assistance from the alliance to help overcome what he described as terrorist threat. It couldn’t be determined whether any of the troops were involved in the killing of the civilians. The main task of the alliance troops, who the organization described as peacekeepers, would be to protect important state and military facilities and assist Kazakh law-enforcement officials in stabilizing the situation, the CSTO said. Russia, the strongest military force in the alliance and longtime partner of Kazakhstan, has sent airborne troops as part of the mission, it said. Russian President Vladimir Putin has supported Mr. Tokayev and his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had ruled Kazakhstan since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 and resigned in March 2019 but has continued to wield political influence behind the scenes. On Wednesday, the Kremlin warned against outside interference in the unrest faced by its Central Asian ally. On Thursday, Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry said attacks on administrative and military facilities in Almaty, the seizure of the airport and the retention of foreign passenger and cargo aircraft was evidence of a high level of preparation and coordination and proved that the country “faced an armed incursion by terrorist groups trained abroad. Russia’s foreign ministry echoed the sentiment, describing the events as “an attempt, inspired from the outside, to undermine the security and integrity of the state by force, using trained and organized armed formations. Russia will continue to consult with Kazakhstan and other allies in the CSTO to develop possible further steps, “primarily to facilitate the conduct of the counterterrorist operation by the law enforcement agencies of Kazakhstan, Russia’s foreign ministry said. The charge of terrorism against protesters is frequently used by authoritarian leaders in former Soviet republics to tarnish their opponents. On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki dismissed what she described as “some crazy Russian claims about the U.S. being behind the unrest. “Let me just use this opportunity to convey that is absolutely false and clearly a part of the standard Russian disinformation playbook we’ve seen a lot of in past years, she said. The rebellion is the latest among former Soviet republics that challenge what protesters see as a corrupt, authoritarian model of leaders backed by the Kremlin. Protesters in Ukraine forced out a pro-Russian president in 2014, prompting Russia to send troops to annex Crimea and whip up a conflict in eastern Ukraine. In Belarus last year, Moscow-backed President Alexander Lukashenkobrutally suppressed protests against a rigged election. Although triggered by a sharp rise in fuel prices, the protests in Kazakhstan quickly became driven by general discontent with the regime that has held power since the fall of the Soviet Union. Demonstrations have taken aim at economic woes and the country’s authoritarian political system, which allows for little dissent. Protests in 2016 were sparked by planned land-privatization revisions that led to rumors that land could be snapped up by Chinese investors. At the same time, the weak national currency, the tenge, had sent inflation soaring and limited purchasing power. Mr. Tokayev, who was previously prime minister and speaker of the senate, took office in June 2019 after Mr. Nazarbayev handpicked him to be his successor. The former leader has retained influence through his role as secretary of the security council. Mr. Tokayev renamed the country’s capital Nur-Sultan after Mr. Nazarbayev and appointed the ex-president’s daughter to the powerful role of speaker of the senate. Opposition parties remained largely excluded from political life, protests were often banned and activist leaders arrested. The Kazakh government has repeatedly promised to address high-level corruption, better share the wealth of the country’s huge natural resources, and to overhaul its authoritarian political system. Frequent promises of mass privatization of state assets, touted in the West as signs of reform, have fallen short. This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text Download.

politics 2022-01-07 Livemint