Law enforcement officers beheaded in Kazakhstan

kazakhstan Jan 6, 2022

The death toll among the security forces during the unrest in Almaty has reportedly reached 13

At least two law enforcement personnel have been beheaded during violent protests in the Kazakh city of Almaty, according to local media reports on Thursday.

Almaty, Kazakhstan. © AP Photo/Vladimir Tretyakov

News of the alleged incidents was broadcast by Nur-Sultan’s state-run TV channel Khabar 24, citing city authorities. Some 353 officers are said to have been injured, so far. The death toll among police and security service members has reportedly reached 13.

It is not yet clear whether the rioters decapitated the victims while they were still alive or mutilated their bodies posthumously.

The channel cited officials as stating that the beheadings were “direct proof of the rioting groups’ terrorist and extremist nature.”

Russia’s RIA news agency asked the authorities in Almaty for comment, with officials telling its journalists that at least two bodies had been found headless.

Protests flared in multiple regions in Kazakhstan this week, with citizens initially decrying a steep hike in the cost of liquefied petroleum gas. In an apparent bid to deescalate the situation, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev imposed a ceiling on fuel prices for six months and disbanded his government. However, violent demonstrations continue unabated, with the former capital, Almaty, becoming the focus.

Footage circulating on social media shows demonstrators beating up police officers, seizing firearms and grenades, and storming and setting fire to administrative buildings across the city. Looters have also reportedly ransacked numerous stores.

Special units were deployed to Almaty on Wednesday night, with reports of gunfights between the security forces and armed rioters. Authorities say dozens of armed citizens were shot and killed by the police.

The president branded the rioters “terrorists” and claimed they had been trained abroad, warning protesters the authorities would brook no violence or looting. He has asked allies from the Collective Security Treaty Organization to send in peacekeepers to assist in stabilizing the situation. Russia, which is part of the bloc, has already deployed paratroopers to guard government offices.

By Russia Today

CONTINUED:

Dozens of corpses are lined up in morgue after Kazakhstan forces slaughter protesters

More shootings break out today after Putin sends in troops and protesters topple ex-president's statue amid riots over fuel prices

  • The corpses in a mortuary in Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city, indicate the scale of the carnage in the unrest
  • Horrific footage taken from the morgue showed rows of corpses covered in white sheets or black bin bags
  • Officials have said over 1,000 people have been wounded so far, with no official fatality tally being released
  • Russian media said Thursday 12 security officers had been killed, with three reportedly being beheaded
  • Late Wednesday, protesters down a statue of Nursultan Nazarbayev - the self-styled 'Father of the Nation'
  • Nazarbayev is said to have fled to Russia or China, with Russia sending in troops to help quell the protests

Shocking footage has shown dozens of corpses lined up in a morgue after Kazakhstan forces slaughtered protesters amid on-going riots over fuel prices.

Video from the mortuary came after after an angry mob tore down a statue of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, and as Russian President Vladimir Putin sent in troops to help Kazakh forces quell the unrest.

The Kremlin will fear that the protests in Kazakhstan are the latest signal that citizens who have spent decades living under autocracies in the shadow of the former Soviet Union are reaching their breaking point.

The corpses in a mortuary in Almaty - the country's largest city - indicate the scale of the carnage in the ex-Soviet republic where the worst violence since gaining independence in 1991 is continuing unabated.

Officials have said more than 1,000 people had been wounded so far in clashes, with nearly 400 hospitalised and 62 in intensive care. The number of protesters killed has not been revealed, but Police said earlier that they had 'eliminated' dozens of rioters. They also said about 2,000 people have been detained.

Media reports on Thursday said 13 security officers have been killed and 353 wounded. Kazakhstan's Khabar 24 news channel reported the toll as of midday, saying that three of the dead security officers had been found with their heads cut off, Russian news agencies Interfax and RIA Novosti reported.

The Kazakh government said the severing of three officers' heads proved that riots were of a 'terrorist character'.

The video from the morgue shows dozens of bodies but it is unclear where or exactly when they were slain.

Commentary on the macabre footage said: 'The corpses, the bodies of the protesters. Different ages, young people. These are all protesters - adult, young. Very young.'

The video was filmed before a new round of shooting in the city's main square early Thursday as Kazakh troops sought to crush the widening revolt which was triggered by a hike in gas prices.

Separate footage on Wednesday night showed protesters pulling down a statue of Nursultan Nazarbayev - the self-styled 'Father of the Nation' and ally of Vladimir Putin.

In a blow to the Kremlin, Nazarbayev, 81, yesterday gave up his final role in overall charge of security in the country. Rumours suggest he may have fled to China or Russia, with The Daily Telegraph reporting Russian military planes landed in Kazakhstan to rescue him so he could seek 'urgent medical treatment.'

'It is absolutely not in Putin's interest to have this blow up in his backyard when he's in the middle of a showdown with Nato,' Eugene Rumer - an author and former national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the U.S. National Intelligence Council, told the Financial Times.

Russia and other ex-Soviet states have started to answer a call by the current Kazakh president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev for military reinforcements to quell the protests.

Russian paratroopers are on the ground in Kazakhstan in the role of 'peacekeepers' from the Collective Security Treaty Organisation which comprises a number of ex-Soviet states.

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Pictured: A still from a deeply shocking video has shown the bodies of dozens of protesters slaughtered in the bloody unrest in Kazakhstan. The corpses in a mortuary in Almaty - the country's largest city - indicate the scale of the carnage in the ex-Soviet republic where the violence is continuing unabated
Footage on Wednesday night showed protesters pulling down a statue of Nursultan Nazarbayev - the self-styled 'Father of the Nation' and ally of Vladimir Putin.
Pictured: A statue of Nursultan Nazarbayev - the self-styled 'Father of the Nation' - is pulled down. Nazarbayev, 81, yesterday gave up his final role in overall charge of security in the country. Rumours suggest he may have fled to China or Russia
Pictured: Security forces are deployed against protesters o stop mass unrest in Kazakhstan. Officials have said more than 1,000 people had been wounded so far in the unrest, with nearly 400 hospitalised and 62 in intensive care. The number of fatalities has not been revealed
Protesters take part in a rally over a hike in energy prices in Almaty on January 5, 2022

Overnight police spokesman Saltanat Azirbek admitted the slaughter of 'dozens' of protesters.

'Extremist forces attempted to storm the administrative buildings, the police department of the city of Almaty as well as district directorates and police departments,' she said.

'Dozens of attackers were eliminated, their identities are being established.'

The Kazakh authorities have portrayed the protesters as 'terrorists' and said an operation somewhat ironically named 'For the Sake of Peace' was underway to counter them.

Intense shooting was underway in the main square of Almaty.

'Troops arrived at the square, and started the mop-up of trouble-makers. The intensive firing is underway,' said a report from the scene by TASS news agency. 'In relation to this, we are urging residents and the city's guests to refrain from leaving houses for the sake of their own safety,' she added.

Videos also show widespread looting in the city with seven hypermarkets totally empty of goods in the country's worst-ever mass unrest.

At least one gun shop was also looted and weapons were stolen when rampaging protesters overran the Almaty branch of the National Security Committee, the state secret service, equivalent of the Russian FSB.

The authorities - struggling to keep control of the energy-rich country amid the unprecedented protests - have not given a death toll for demonstrators, while stressing that a number of police have died.

Protests spread across the nation of 19 million this week in outrage over a New Year increase in prices for liquid petroleum gas (LPG), which is widely used to fuel cars in the west of the country.

Thousands took to the streets in Almaty and in the western province of Mangystau, saying the price rise was unfair given oil and gas exporter Kazakhstan's vast energy reserves.

Protesters were reported to have stormed several government buildings on Wednesday, including the Almaty mayor's office and the presidential residence.

A video shows protesters outside a hospital forming a 'human shield' apparently angry that wounded police were getting priority over demonstrators. They demanded 'no treatment for cops'.

The offices of five TV channels were looted in Almaty - MIR, Kazakhstan, Khabar, Eurasia, and KTK.

A student in his early 20s, Nurlan Mailinov, a keen snowboarder, has vanished after posting footage of the carnage in Almaty, including the fire at the mayor's office, burning cars, and smashed, looted cafes.

He told how in the seized office protesters broke open a safe with millions of Kazakh currency tenge inside.

'They gave out 2,000 tenge (£3.40) to each person,' he said, holding the banknotes.

'We are in our local parliament- and they are giving away money.'

His posts suddenly stopped amid the battles with law enforcers.

Flames are seen inside the mayor's building in Almaty
People gather around a items looted in Almaty
Pictured: An outside view of the burning mayor's office which was set on fire during unrest in Almaty on January 6. Protesters were reported to have stormed several government buildings on Wednesday, including the Almaty mayor's office
Last night a statue of Nursultan Nazarbayev (pictured) was toppled by an angry mob after Nazarbayev, 81, yesterday gave up his final role in overall charge of security. Rumours suggest he may have fled to China or Russia
Pictured: Russian airborne troop units depart aboard Russian Aerospace Forces aircraft to join the Collective Security Treaty Organisation's peacekeeping force in Kazakhstan
Videos showed widespread looting in the city with seven hypermarkets totally empty of goods in the country's worst-ever mass unrest. Pictured: A Christmas tree in a looted shop on January 6

The full picture of the chaos was unclear, with widespread disruptions to communications including mobile phone signals, the blocking of online messengers and hours-long internet shutdowns.

The protests are the biggest threat so far to the regime established by Kazakhstan's founding president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who stepped down in 2019 and hand-picked president Tokayev as his successor.

Tokayev tried to head off further unrest by announcing the resignation of the government headed by Prime Minister Askar Mamin early on Wednesday, but protests continued.

Last night a statue of Nursultan Nazarbayev was toppled by an angry mob after Nazarbayev, 81, yesterday gave up his final role in overall charge of security. Rumours suggest he may have fled to China or Russia.

Tokayev also announced he was taking over from Nazarbayev as head of the powerful security council, a surprise move given the ex-president's continued influence.

Protesters are seen as they enter the governor's office as protests continue across Kazakhstan against fuel price increase, in Almaty, Kazakhstan on January 5 2022
Pictured: Security forces carry out an operation to quell protesters in Kazakhstan. Media reports on Thursday said twelve security officers have been killed and 353 wounded
Pictured: Trucks belonging to Kazakh security forces are shown in Almaty as troops work to quell the on-going protests
Kazakhstan's Khabar 24 news channel reported the toll as of midday, saying that the body of one of the dead security officers was found with its head cut off, Russian news agencies Interfax and RIA Novosti reported

With protests escalating, the government late on Wednesday said a state of emergency declared in protest-hit areas would be extended nationwide and in effect until January 19.

It imposes an overnight curfew, restricts movements and bans mass gatherings.

Much of the anger appeared directed at Nazarbayev, who is 81 and had ruled Kazakhstan since 1989 before handing power to Tokayev.

But the protests appear to have no identifiable leader or demands.

Many protesters shouted 'Old Man Out!' in reference to Nazarbayev and images posted on social media showed a statue of the ex-president being torn down.

The EU and the UN called for 'restraint' on all sides, while Washington urged authorities to allow protesters to 'express themselves peacefully.'

Kazakhstan's government tolerates little real opposition and has been accused of silencing independent voices.

Spontaneous, unsanctioned protests are illegal despite a 2020 law that eased some restrictions on freedom of assembly.

Meanwhile, a Moscow-led military alliance dispatched troops to help quell mounting unrest in Kazakhstan on Thursday as police said dozens were killed trying to storm government buildings.

Pictured: Riot police guard the Ak Orda Presidential Palace against protesters on January 5
A burnt car is seen by the mayors office on fire. Protests are spreading across Kazakhstan over the rising fuel prices; protesters broke into the Almaty mayors office and set it on fire
A man rallies outside the burning mayors office. Protests are spreading across Kazakhstan over the rising fuel prices; protesters broke into the Almaty mayors office and set it on fire
Riot police officers block a street during the protests in Almaty, Kazakhstan,January 5

Long seen as one the most stable of the ex-Soviet republics of Central Asia, energy-rich Kazakhstan is facing its biggest crisis in decades after days of protests over rising fuel prices escalated into widespread unrest.

Under increasing pressure, President Tokayev appealed to the Russia-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), which includes five other ex-Soviet states, to combat what he called 'terrorist groups' that had 'received extensive training abroad'.

Within hours the alliance said the first troops had been sent, including Russian paratroopers and military units from the other CSTO members.

'Peacekeeping forces... were sent to the Republic of Kazakhstan for a limited time to stabilise and normalise the situation,' the CSTO said in a statement, without specifying the number of troops involved.

The CSTO's current chairman, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, earlier announced the alliance would agree to the request, saying Kazakhstan was facing 'outside interference'.

One report said Russia had ten Il-76s and three An-124s involved in a massive military operation to quell the disturbances.

Some planes with Russian forces are already in Kazakhstan, where one in five of the population are ethnic Russian.

A spokesman for Magnum, the largest Kazakh hypermarket and supermarket chain, Dmitry Shishkin, said that by 4 am some seven outlets were completely looted.

Another seven were partially looted.

The TSUM department store had been totally looted along with many smaller shops.

Videos show the mass looting, which included banks and thefts from cash machines.

Looters even used a tractor to smash into one bank branch.

A mob also took over weapons store Korgan, making away with guns and ammunition.

The country's largest airport in Almaty was overrun by a mob which also seized five planes and looted the terminal.

Beleaguered Kazakh president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev - who has fired his Cabinet and security officials in a bid to remain in charge - told Khabar-24 TV channel: 'Terrorist gangs are seizing large infrastructural facilities.

'In particular, in Almaty they have seized the airport, five planes, including foreign planes. Almaty has been subjected to an assault, destruction and vandalism.

'Almaty residents have fallen victim to the attack by terrorists and bandits.'

All banks remained closed today across Kazakhstan, the world's ninth largest country in size, due to the state of emergency.

The violence follows a doubling of prices for gas.

The country has seen pent up resentment over low wages and poverty and the enrichment of a narrow elite controlling the government and Kazakhstan's oil and gas reserves.

Kazakhstan, the ninth largest country in the world, borders Russia to the north and China to the east and has extensive oil reserves that make it strategically and economically important. Despite those reserves and mineral wealth, discontent over poor living conditions is strong in some parts of the country.

By Will Stewart & Chris Jewers

CONTINUED:

Why Kazakhstan uprising will strike fear in Putin

Protests against another of Vladimir's allies show citizens of former Soviet nations are ready to rise up after decades of suppression

  • Energy-rich Kazakhstan is one of the five ex-Soviet nations in Central Asia
  • It has been long seen as one of the most stable former Soviet states in the region
  • Kazakhstan is of crucial importance to Russia as an economic partner
  • But the current unrest - the latest sign citizens of former Soviet republics are growing tired of their ruling autocracies - will make the Kremlin anxious

A Moscow-led military alliance dispatched troops to help quell mounting unrest in Kazakhstan on Thursday, amid fears from the Kremlin over what example the toppling of the country's government could set for other former Soviet republics.

Long seen as one the most stable of the ex-Soviet states of Central Asia, energy-rich Kazakhstan is facing its biggest crisis in decades after days of protests over rising fuel prices escalated into widespread unrest.

One of five ex-Soviet nations in the region, Kazakhstan is of crucial importance to Russia as an economic partner and home to a large ethnic Russian population.

While Russian propaganda will likely blame foreign meddling, experts have claimed that President Vladimir Putin will fear that the protests in Kazakhstan are the latest signal that citizens who have spent decades living under autocracies in the shadow of the former Soviet Union are reaching their breaking point.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev tried to head off further unrest by announcing the resignation of the government headed by Prime Minister Askar Mamin early on Wednesday, but protests continued. Thousands have been injured or killed.

Tokayev is the chosen successor to Putin ally Nursultan Nazarbayev, a statue of whom was toppled by an angry mob on Thursday. Nazarbayev, 81, is believed to have fled to Russia, with reports saying he was rescued by military plane.

Protesters take part in a rally over a hike in energy prices in Almaty on January 5, 2022. A Moscow-led military alliance dispatched troops to help quell mounting unrest in Kazakhstan on Thursday
Pictured: Thousands of protesters attend an opposition protest in Minsk, Belarus, October 4 2020. Opposition leaders came close to toppling strongman Alexander Lukashenko's regime in Belarus before the Putin ally rigged national elections to ensure he held on to power

The significance of the staute of Nazarbayev - the self styled 'Father of the Nation' - being toppled on Thursday will not have gone unnoticed in Moscow.

'It is absolutely not in Putin's interest to have this blow up in his backyard when he's in the middle of a showdown with Nato,' Eugene Rumer - an author and former national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the U.S. National Intelligence Council, told the Financial Times.

Moscow called for a 'peaceful solution... through dialogue, not through street riots and violation of laws.'

Similar revolts were seen in Ukraine and Georgia the early 2000s, pushing the countries further towards Western relations. Both have actively sought Nato and EU membership - the stuff of nightmares for Putin.

Since then, Moscow has exercised military strength against both nations, with around 90,000 troops currently amassed on Ukraine's border raising fears of a full-scale military invasion of the country.

In 2020, opposition leaders came close to toppling strongman Alexander Lukashenko's regime in Belarus before Europe's 'last dictator' rigged national elections to ensure he held on to power.

In doing so, political rival Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was sent into exile.

Kazakhstan's president Tokayev is the chosen successor to Putin ally Nursultan Nazarbayev, a statue of whom was toppled by an angry mob on Thursday (pictured)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) poses for a photo with Founding President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev (left) at the informal summit of leaders of Commonwealth of Independent States on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in St. Petersburg, December 28, 2021

In addition to Putin giving his blessing to Lukashenko's brutal crackdown on dissidents, the Russian strongman has also quelled any political opposition at home.

Before the end of the 2021, he shut down Russia's most prominent civil rights group Memorial, and at the beginning of the year imprisoned leader of Russia's opposition Alexei Navalny, who was also poisoned in 2020.

However, the issues in Kazakhstan that have led to the unrest are largely domestic, with the The cause of the unrest being a spike in prices for LPG in hydrocarbon-rich Mangystau.

Much of the anger appeared directed at Nazarbayev, who is 81 and had ruled Kazakhstan with an iron fist since 1989 before handing power to Tokayev.

Many protesters shouted 'Old Man Out!' in reference to Nazarbayev.

Even if Kazakhstan's government were to completely fall, the country is unlikely to entirely slip out from under the influence of Moscow, although Russia will be concerned about pet projects such as the Eurasian Economic Union.

Russia itself will unlikely be threatened by the chaos across the border.

Women with their mouths taped over attend a pro-Ukraine rally in Simferopol March 13, 2014
Opposition coalition supporters hold a rally in central Tbilisi, Georgia in May, 2008

Putin has built deep-rooted defences against any uprising at home, demonstrated by his ruthlessness in dealing with supporters of Navalny, and Navalny himself.

However, according to The Telegraph, some pro-Kremlin media outlets were likening the situation in Kazakhstan to a 'Maidan' - a reference to Ukraine's revolution that in Putin's eyes was the result of foreign interference.

The Russian oligarch will keeping a close eye on Kazakhstan as events unfold.

With protests escalating, Kazakhstan's government late on Wednesday said a state of emergency declared in protest-hit areas would be extended nationwide and in effect until January 19.

It imposes an overnight curfew, restricts movements and bans mass gatherings.

Under increasing pressure, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev appealed overnight to the Russia-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), which includes five other ex-Soviet states, to combat what he called 'terrorist groups' that had 'received extensive training abroad'.

Within hours the alliance said the first troops had been sent, including Russian paratroopers and military units from the other CSTO members.

still image taken from a handout video made available by the Russian Defence Ministry's press service shows Russian servicemen boarding a military aircraft on their way to Kazakhstan, at an airfield outside Moscow, Russia, January 6, 2022

'Peacekeeping forces... were sent to the Republic of Kazakhstan for a limited time to stabilise and normalise the situation,' the CSTO said in a statement, without specifying the number of troops involved.

The CSTO's current chairman, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, earlier announced the alliance would agree to the request, saying Kazakhstan was facing 'outside interference'.

In the worst reported violence so far, police said dozens of people were killed in battles with security forces at government buildings in the country's largest city Almaty.

'Last night, extremist forces tried to assault administrative buildings, the Almaty city police department, as well as local police commissariats. Dozens of assailants were eliminated,' police spokesman Saltanat Azirbek was quoted as saying by the Interfax-Kazakhstan, TASS and Ria Novosti news agencies.

The European Union and the United Nations called for 'restraint' on all sides, while Washington urged authorities to allow protesters to 'express themselves peacefully.'

Kazakhstan's government tolerates little real opposition and has been accused of silencing independent voices.

Spontaneous, unsanctioned protests are illegal despite a 2020 law that eased some restrictions on freedom of assembly.

Smaller rallies had been staged in cities across the republic from Sunday, beginning with the town of Zhanaozen in Mangystau.

The initial cause of the unrest was a spike in prices for LPG in hydrocarbon-rich Mangystau.

Reports by independent media suggested that Tokayev's announcement of a new price of 50 tenge (11 US cents) per litre, down from 120 at the beginning of the year, failed to weaken the rallies in Zhanaozen and Mangystau's capital Aktau as demonstrators aired new demands.

Five things to know about Kazakhstan

With dozens reported dead in the worst unrest in energy-rich Kazakhstan in decades, we look at what had been one of the most stable and tightly controlled of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia.

Nazarbayev

Former Communist Party boss Nursultan Nazarbayev, now 81, ruled the vast steppe land with an iron fist for years from independence in 1991. He was still reportedly pulling the strings after he finally stepped down in 2019 to make way for his anointed successor, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

A key Russian ally, the country has never had a free election.

Nazarbayev used its vast oil wealth to build a gleaming new capital, Astana - later renamed Nur-Sultan in his honour.

Known for its futuristic skyline of skyscrapers and chilly winter temperatures that regularly plunge below minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit), an observation tower at its centre is topped with a viewing platform where visitors can place their hands on a gold imprint of Nazarbayev's palm.

The old capital Almaty remains the biggest city and commercial hub.

Cosmodrome

Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world with an area of more than 2.7 million square kilometres (1.1 million square miles).

The vast Kazakh steppe is home to the Russia-leased Baikonur cosmodrome - still the world's biggest launch pad nearly 60 years after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin blasted off from there to become the first man in space.

Mixed population

Kazakhs may make up nearly 70 percent of the population (2020) but historically the country has had a large Russian minority.

Russians made up more than 40 percent of its people in the 1970s but their numbers have since fallen back to one in five of the population.

Officially home to 130 nationalities, many were deported there in Soviet times as political prisoners, with German, Greek, Tatar, Polish, Korean, Ingush and Georgian Turk communities springing up across the steppe.

Kazakhstan is proud of its nomadic history and marked 550 years since the birth of the first Kazakh state in 2015.

The celebrations followed controversial remarks by Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who said that Kazakhs had never had a state prior to independence from Moscow.

While Kazakhstan and Russia traditionally enjoy strong relations, their shared history sometimes gets in the way.

Russia criticised a 2019 Kazakh documentary which claimed that the forced collectivisation of the country resulted in genocide, with up to 40 percent of the population either dying in famines or fleeing in the 1930s.

Heavily dependent on oil

Kazakhstan is Central Asia's biggest economy which has in the past seen double-digit growth. But it was hit hard by a 2014 plunge in oil prices on which it is heavily dependent.

It was also affected by the 2008 economic crisis in Russia, which led to a devaluation of the Kazakh currency, the tenge.

Oil accounted for 21 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product in 2020, according to the World Bank, which predicts the economy will grow by 3.7 percent this year.

The country's main oilfield Tengiz produces a third of Kazakhstan's annual output and is 50-percent controlled by US firm Chevron.

The world's biggest producer of uranium, Kazakhstan is also overflowing with manganese, iron, chromium and coal.

Kazakhstan has linked the future of its economy to neighbouring China, investing heavily in its road network, railways and port infrastructure to facilitate trade links.

Getting past Borat

For all the petrodollars the resource-rich state has invested in image promotion, Kazakhstan is still dogged by Borat.

Many beyond its borders continue to associate the country with British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's 2006 outrageous hit mockumentary Borat.

He reared his head again in 2017 when Baron Cohen offered to pay fines for Czech tourists detained by Kazakh police after they posed for photos in the capital wearing Borat-style 'mankinis'.

Reporting by AFP

By Chris Jewers

CONTINUED:

Foreign spy agencies behind riots in Kazakhstan, Serbian president says

Protests flared up in several cities of Kazakhstan on January 2

BELGRADE, January 6. /TASS/. Foreign intelligence services are behind the ongoing mass riots in Kazakhstan, which will result in hundreds or thousands of deaths and a looted country for years to come, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters on Thursday.

In a comment on the Serbian oligarchs’ claims about their upcoming victory in the April 3 presidential election, Vucic said: "I don’t think that they (oligarchs - TASS) hope to defeat a candidate, who calls for Serbia’s prosperity, they are not that silly and uninformed, they know that our people appreciate the achieved progress and know what people think. They say this because they think that someone with big money will push them in Serbia to stage riots in the country. So that they stage something what is happening in Kazakhstan, where will be hundreds or thousands of deaths, a looted country for years to come, where foreign services of various major forces have interfered. Probably, they want the same thing to happen in Serbia," Vucic said.

Protests flared up in several cities of Kazakhstan on January 2. Later they erupted in other cities, including in Almaty, and on January 5 snowballed into mass riots and violence, along with looting and attacks on state buildings. As a result, more than 1,000 people were hurt and deaths have been reported.

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has requested assistance of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a post-Soviet security bloc. The first units of peacekeepers have started fulfilling their assigned tasks in Kazakhstan.

By TASS

CONTINUED:

Russia-led military alliance will send ‘peacekeepers’ to Kazakhstan

Armenian PM says

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) — which includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan — decided to send collective “peacekeeping forces” for a “limited” period of time “in view of the threat to national security and the sovereignty of the Republic of Kazakhstan,” according to a statement from Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who is also chairman of the alliance.The move follows an appeal from Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev for help from the alliance after unrest broke out across Kazakhstan on Wednesday, including in the largest city, Almaty.

Eight police officers and national guard personnel were killed in riots in different regions of the country, according to Kazakhstan’s local outlet Tengrinews.kz. It also said 317 officers and personnel were injured, citing the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

“In the cities of Almaty, Shymkent, and Taraz, attempts were made to attack akimats [local administration offices], where windows, doors were broken and other material damage was caused,” said a statement on the ministry’s website. “Stones, sticks, gas, pepper, and Molotov cocktails were used by the mob.”

President Tokayev said “terrorists” had captured Almaty airport, including five aircraft, and were battling with the military outside the city.

A number of infrastructure facilities in Almaty have been damaged, Tokayev said. He accused the protesters of undermining the “state system” and claimed “many of them have received military training abroad.”

The protests were ignited when the government lifted price controls on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) at the start of the year, Reuters reported. Many Kazakhs have converted their cars to run on the fuel because of its low cost.

A nationwide internet blackout was in effect in Kazakhstan early Thursday, according to internet freedom watchdog Netblocks. The country saw a nationwide internet shutdown Wednesday afternoon before it was partially restored, the watchdog said in a statement.

A journalist in Almaty told CNN they were experiencing internet outage and lights appeared to be off in buildings near the President’s residence and mayor’s office.

“More than 10,000 people at the city administration building, we call it the Akimat. They have encircled it,” Serikzhan Mauletbay, deputy editor in chief of Orda.kz, said. Mauletbay said stun grenades were used and there is “some kind of fire,” according to an Instagram live video he watched from the scene.

Another journalist described the scene as chaotic and said they could hear and see what they believed were stun grenades going off and shots being fired, but it is unclear what the firing sounds were.

A state of emergency has been introduced throughout the country, state-run media reported. It will be implemented until January 19, with restrictions on movement, including transport, in three major cities and 14 regions.

Oil-rich Kazakhstan, the world’s ninth-largest nation by landmass, has attracted foreign investment and maintained a strong economy since its independence, but its autocratic method of governance has at times prompted international concern and has seen authorities harshly crack down on protests, according to global rights groups.Russia maintains close relations with Kazakhstan and Moscow depends on the Baikonur Cosmodrome as the launch base for all Russian manned space missions. The Central Asian nation also has a significant ethnic Russian minority; the CIA World Factbook says around 20% of Kazakhstan’s 19 million population is ethnically Russian.

Amid the turmoil, Kazakh Prime Minister Askar Mamin announced his immediate resignation.

Alikhan Smailov has been appointed acting Prime Minister, and members of the government will continue to serve until the formation of the new cabinet, according to a statement on the presidential website Wednesday.

President Tokayev said a number of measures aimed “to stabilize the socio-economic situation” had been put into place, including government regulation of fuel prices for a period of 180 days, a moratorium on increasing utility tariffs for the population for the same period, and the consideration of rent subsidies for “vulnerable segments of the population.”

On Tuesday, Tokayev said on his official Twitter feed the government has decided to reduce the price for LPG in the Mangistau region to 50 tenge ($0.11) per liter “in order to ensure stability in the country.”

Tokayev said in a national television address Wednesday that he will take control of the Kazakhstan’s Security Council — a move that seemingly sidelines his predecessor, longtime President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who led the country since it was a Soviet Republic until his departure in 2019, and has remained an influential but controversial figure behind the scenes and on the council since.

The US State Department’s 2018 human rights report noted Kazakhstan’s 2015 presidential election, in which Nazarbayev received 98% of votes cast, “was marked by irregularities and lacked genuine political competition.”

On Wednesday, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said in a statement the US “is closely following the situation in Kazakhstan,” adding “We ask for all Kazakhstanis to respect and defend constitutional institutions, human rights, and media freedom, including through the restoration of internet service.”

CNN’s Nathan Hodge contributed to this report.

By Evelyn Blackwell

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