Hundreds of people have been killed in Kazakhstan as a result of a crackdown

Hundreds of people have been killed in Kazakhstan as a result of a crackdown
Troops could be seen in Almaty on Thursday morning

Kazakhstan security forces claim to have killed dozens of anti-government protesters in Almaty, the country’s capital.

According to a police spokeswoman, they moved in after protesters attempted to take control of police stations throughout the city.

The unrest, which was sparked by a doubling in the cost of liquefied petroleum gas, has resulted in the deaths of 12 security personnel and the injuries of 353 others (LPG).

The Kazakh president has requested that Russia send troops in.

They will be stationed in the country to help “stabilize” it, which is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) alongside Russia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia.

Russian paratroopers are being dispatched as peacekeepers, according to the CSTO, with advance units already deployed.

Protests began on Sunday after the government raised the price cap on LPG, which many people use to power their vehicles, but the unrest has since spread to include political grievances.

Kazakhstan: The Fundamentals

What happened to it? Kazakhstan is bordered to the north by Russia and to the east by China. It is a massive country the size of Western Europe, dwarfing the other former Soviet republics of Central Asia in terms of land mass.

What difference does it make? It has vast mineral resources, accounting for 3% of global oil reserves and having significant coal and gas industries. It is a predominantly Muslim republic with a sizable Russian minority that has largely avoided the civil wars that have afflicted other parts of Central Asia.

What’s the big deal about it? The government has been rocked by fuel riots, which have resulted in top-level resignations and a bloody crackdown on protesters.

What level of danger has the unrest reached?

It’s difficult to get a clear picture of what’s going on because of a “nation-wide internet blackout,” according to monitoring groups, and there are reports that security forces have sided with protesters in some areas.

On Thursday, Almaty police spokeswoman Saltanat Azirbek advised residents to stay at home while a “counter-terrorist” operation continued in three administrative buildings.

She said dozens of attackers were “eliminated” after attempting to storm police buildings in the city, and that rioters stole weapons.

Approximately 1,000 people are said to have been injured as a result of the unrest, with 400 of them being treated in hospitals and 62 in intensive care.

Protesters also targeted Almaty’s mayor’s office and Kazakhstan’s main airport, while water cannons were used against demonstrators in Aktobe, Kazakhstan’s western city.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has declared a state of emergency across the country, imposing a curfew and prohibiting mass gatherings.

He also fired his powerful predecessor, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had been in charge of national security since stepping down as president, as well as the entire government.

What is Russia’s motivation for getting involved?

President Tokayev blamed the unrest on foreign-trained “terrorist gangs” and announced that he had sought assistance from the CSTO, an alliance of former Soviet states dominated by Russia.

The current chairman of the CSTO, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, stated that peacekeeping forces would be sent “for a limited period of time.”

A small group of Russian soldiers were seen boarding a military transport plane in a video released by Russian media. The peacekeeping force will be deployed to Kazakhstan to assist in the protection of state and military installations, according to the alliance.

The CSTO was formed nearly 30 years ago, shortly after the Soviet Union collapsed, as a military alliance to counter external threats.

When ethnic violence erupted in Kyrgyzstan in 2010, Russia turned down a request from the CSTO to send in peacekeepers, claiming it was an internal matter.

Why is fuel such a contentious topic?

According to the Reuters news agency, LPG (butane and propane) is used to refuel as many as 90% of vehicles in some parts of Kazakhstan, including the Mangistau region, where the protests began.

Despite being a major oil producer, Kazakhstan experienced LPG shortages on a regular basis because producers were able to get a better price by exporting.

Prices reportedly rose from 50 ($0.11; £0.08) to 120 tenge per litre after the government lifted its price cap on 1 January.

The government has since announced that the 50-tenge cap will be reinstated in Mangistau.

It’s about more than just fuel

The speed with which the protests turned violent caught many people off guard, both in Kazakhstan and across the region, and suggested that they were about more than just higher fuel prices.

This is an authoritarian Central Asian state that has a long history of stability. President Nazarbayev ruled until 2019, and his reign was marked by elements of a personality cult, with statues of him erected across the country and the capital renamed after him.

However, he left amid anti-government protests, which he attempted to quell by stepping down and appointing a close ally in his place.

In Kazakhstan, the ruling party receives nearly 100 percent of the vote in most elections, and there is no effective political opposition.

According to the analysts I spoke with, the Kazakh government clearly underestimated the population’s anger, and that these protests were unsurprising in a country without electoral democracy, where citizens must take to the streets to be heard.

And their complaints are almost certainly about a much broader range of issues than the cost of gasoline.


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