Kazakhstan unrest: Government calls for Russian help

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Image source, Reuters
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Protesters were hit with stun grenades by police on Wednesday

During anti-government protests, Russian-led military forces will deploy to Kazakhstan.

In light of the increasing unrest in Russia, President Kassym Jomart Tokayev urged for help from the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

Rising fuel prices were the first catalyst for protests, but they are now being triggered by other political grievances.

Tokayev asserted that the unrest in the country was caused by terrorist gangs trained abroad.

Kate Mallinson is a Chatham House expert on Central Asia. She said that the protests were “symptomatic” of deep-seated anger at the inability of the Kazhak government modernize their country and implement reforms that affect all people.

President Obama has declared a national emergency, which includes an overnight curfew as well as a ban from mass gatherings. He also promised a harsh response to protestors.

In a televised speech, he stated that he has sought assistance from the CSTO – a military alliance consisting of Russia and five ex Soviet countries – in order to stabilise his country.

Later, on Wednesday, Nikol Pashinyan (Armenian Prime Minister) confirmed that the CSTO chairman would send “for a short period” peacekeeping force to the country.

US State Department said that it was closely following the situation in Kazakhstan. It also issued a statement urging protesters and authorities to be restrained.

  • BACKGROUNDKazakhstan profile
  • CONTEXTThe rarest protests are in countries that ban dissent

Only President Tokayev was the second Kazakhstani leader since 1991 when it gained independence. Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE condemned Tokayev’s election in 2019.

The anger in the streets seems to have come from his predecessor Nursultan Nagayev who had held a prominent national security position after he stepped down. In an effort to quell the unrest, he was dismissed on Wednesday.

Online video has been posted showing protesters trying to take down the giant bronze statue that Mr Nazarbayev had stood at. BBC Monitoring claims that the dismantled monument stood in Taldykorgan (Mr Nazarbayev’s native region).

The main airport in Kazakhstan was closed by anti-government protestors who also attacked government buildings.

The mayor’s Office in Almaty was the scene of protests that eventually led to its destruction. On social media, videos show a plume rising from the building. Gunfire can also be heard.

Kanat Taimerdenov (the city’s chief police officer) said that “extremists, radicals”, had targeted 500 civilians, and ransacked hundreds more businesses.

Protesters were beaten with water canons in Aktobe’s western region. Reports indicate that some security forces have supported protesters at certain locations.

It is difficult to get a complete picture of the events in this central Asian country. The interior ministry provided figures about the deaths and injuries of security personnel, but no similar reports were available for protesters. This was despite what some monitoring groups called a “nationwide internet blackout”.

Another attempt to stop the protests was made when the government removed the price limit on liquefied Petroleum Gas (which many people use for their cars), which caused the cost to nearly double.

The entire government, including Mr Nazarbayev, has also resigned.

Protests do not just focus on fuel.

Olga Ivshina (BBC Russian)

Many were surprised by the speed with which protests escalated violently, in Kazakhstan as well as in other parts of the region. It suggested that the violence is not just about fuel price increases.

The state is central Asian and has been stability since ancient times. It’s often called authoritarian. It was ruled by President Nursultan Nazabayev until 2019. His rule included statues across the country, and a capital named after him.

But he was forced to leave amid anti-government protests. He tried to stop them by standing down and replacing him with a trusted ally.

The ruling party wins almost all elections in Kazakhstan with close to 100% support and there is not much opposition.

According to analysts who spoke with me, the Kazakh government was clearly unaware of the anger expressed by the people. They also stated that protests are not unusual in a country without an electoral system. People need to go to the streets and make their voices heard.

They are likely to have more grievances than just the cost of fuel.

Source: BBC.com

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