Kazakhstan: Dozens of protesters killed, police say

By Dimitri Chirciu, Burak Bir and Ruslan Rehimov


ALMATY/ NUR SULTAN, Kazakhstan (AA): Members of the Organization of Turkic States on Thursday expressed their readiness to support Kazakhstan amid nationwide protests. Dozens of protesters were killed during the demonstrations against fuel price increases in commercial capital Almaty, the country’s police spokesman said Thursday.

Emphasizing the importance of peace and stability, the Turkic States expressed its strong solidarity with its member country, Kazakhstan, it said in a statement.

“(The organization) state their confidence in the capacity of the Kazakh authorities to peacefully defuse tensions and reestablish calm and order,” it added.

Voicing trust “in the wisdom and desire of the brotherly Kazakh people,” to return to normalcy, it also conveyed its condolences for those who lost their lives during the incidents and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.

Kazakhstan’s president said Friday that order had been restored in the country.

“The constitutional order has been mainly restored in all regions,” President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said in a statement after meeting with top officials.

“But terrorists are still using weapons, causing damage to civilian property,” he said.

“The counter-terrorist operation will continue until the total destruction of the militants.”

Tokayev confirmed that a peacekeeping force from the Russia-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) had arrived in Kazakhstan.

He said it would stay “for a limited period” and ensure “the protection of strategic facilities.”

Police Spokesman, Saltanat Azirbek, in a statement to local news channel Haber 24, said clashes were reported as police officers tried to stop protesters from entering government buildings in Almaty on Wednesday night.

He said an operation to quell the protests was ongoing and advised residents to stay at home.

Meanwhile, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev instructed all law enforcement officers to stay on alert.

Tokayev has also established a special investigation group consisting of prosecutors and top security officials to determine the events which led to the escalation, said a statement from the presidency.

Moreover, regional governors have been asked to provide financial support to the families of the police and soldiers who lost their lives in the clashes.

Protests broke out last Sunday in the Central Asian nation after drivers held demonstrations against an increase in LPG prices in the city of Zhanaozen in Mangystau.

The protests spread to other areas of Kazakhstan taking the shape of countrywide public demonstrations.

Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry said Wednesday that more than 200 people were detained for disrupting public order, 37 police vehicles were damaged and 95 police officers were injured.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Wednesday approved the resignation of premier Askar Mamin and his ministers.

To ensure public safety, a state of emergency was declared in Almaty and the oil-rich Mangystau region in the west from Jan. 5-19.

While police used stun grenades and teargas to disperse the protesters, they responded with stones. Clashes were also reported between the police and demonstrators.

The government has also restricted access to social media applications, including Facebook and Telegram.

The protests broke out on Jan. 2 when drivers held demonstrations against an increase in LPG prices in the city of Zhanaozen in Mangystau, which later spread to Aktau city.

Supportive protests in the western cities of Atyrau, Aktobe, and Oral, where the country’s petroleum and natural gas reserves are located, spread to other areas of Kazakhstan to turn into countrywide public demonstrations.

World response

The European Union on Wednesday urged all sides in Kazakhstan to show restraint and responsibility amid rising social tensions over a huge increase in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) prices.

“We call on all concerned to act with responsibility and restraint and to refrain from actions that could lead to a further escalation of violence,” Nabila Massrali, the spokeswoman for the European External Action Service, said in a written statement.

On one hand, the EU called on the Kazakh authorities to respect the fundamental right of peaceful protests and the principle of proportionality when they defend their legitimate security interests.

On the other hand, the bloc urged protesters to avoid violence while recognizing their right to peaceful demonstrations.

“The European Union encourages a peaceful resolution of the situation through inclusive dialogue with all stakeholders and respect for the fundamental rights of citizens,” the statement said, adding the bloc was closely following the developments in Kazakhstan.

The US on Wednesday called for restraint in Kazakhstan.

In a statement, State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington is closely following the situation in Kazakhstan, which he called “a valued partner.”

“We condemn the acts of violence and destruction of property and call for restraint by both the authorities and protestors,” said Price.

He said the US asks all Kazakhstanis to respect and defend constitutional institutions, human rights and media freedom, including through the restoration of internet service.

“We urge all parties to find a peaceful resolution of the state of emergency,” he added.

The UN also urged the authorities and demonstrators to “exercise restraint, refrain from violence and promote dialogue.”

In a statement, Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said the UN is following events in Kazakhstan “with concern.”

UK Foreign Office says it was “concerned by the violent clashes in Kazakhstan in recent days and are following developments closely. We call for calm and we condemn acts of violence and the destruction of property and buildings. We also call for a resumption of internet services and for the Kazakh authorities to respect their commitments to freedom of speech and expression.

“Protests should be peaceful and law enforcement responses proportionate and in line with Kazakhstan’s international commitments. The UK has a close relationship with Kazakhstan and it is important that Kazakhstan’s sovereignty is respected. The UK encourages a peaceful resolution through engagement between the authorities and civil society.”

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Thursday called for the cessation of violence in Kazakhstan, where massive protests have been staged against rising fuel prices.

The top Muslim body in a written statement expressed grave concern over the developments taking place in the Central Asian country and sadness over the acts of violence that have caused dozens of deaths and damage to public property.

Calling on the Kazakh people to practice restraint and for an end to acts of violence, the organization also affirmed its solidarity with the Kazakh government in preserving peace, security and stability.

Additional report by The Muslim News

[Photo:  Protesters are seen entering the governor’s office as protests continue across Kazakhstan against fuel price increase, in Almaty, Kazakhstan on January 5 2022. Photographer: Stringer/AA]

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