Carnage in Kazakhstan: Armed forces gun down more demonstrators – nation.lk – The Nation Newspaper

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Armed forces in Kazakhstan gunned down more demonstrators today as the streets of Almaty were turned into a 'war zone', with protesters being accused of beheading three police officers. 

Burnt-out vehicles littered the city's streets, several government buildings were in ruins and bullet casings were strewn over the territory of the presidential residence, which was stormed and looted by protesters yesterday.

Meanwhile, troops from a Moscow-led military alliance arrived as 'peacekeepers' help quell mounting unrest after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev - an ally of Russia's Vladimir Putin - appealed overnight to the Russia-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), which includes five other ex-Soviet states.

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. 

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

Kazakhstan's interior ministry on Thursday said 18 security officers have been killed and 748 wounded in the clashes with protesters. The ministry also said 2,298 protestors had been detained. 

Kazakhstan's Khabar 24 news channel reported that three of the dead security officers had been found with their heads cut off, Russian news agencies Interfax and RIA Novosti reported.

'The most difficult situation remains in Almaty, where armed men seized and partially destroyed a number of the premises of state bodies, financial organisations, television companies and trade facilities,' the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the Russian news agencies. 

Video showed protesters armed with batons and shields overpower and brutally beat a Kazakh special forces. The Kazakh government said the severing of three officers' heads proved that riots were of a 'terrorist character'. 

The shooting continued into Thursday, with reports saying that soldiers were firing at protesters and cars on the main square of Almaty. There are reports of multiple deaths. It came after people had been warned to leave.

One car was shown driving into a line of security personnel forming a defensive line against protesters. Video of the incident showed officers chasing the car after it crashed through the shield line, but failed to catch it.  

'It's a war zone,' said one eyewitness, as gunfire continued in downtown Almaty this evening.

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Armed forces in Kazakhstan gunned down more demonstrators today as the streets of Almaty were turned into a 'war zone', with protesters being accused of beheading three police officers by Russian news agencies. Pictured: A man stands in front of the mayor's office building which was torched during protests triggered by fuel price increase in Almaty, January 6, 2022

Pictured: A car (top-right) ploughs into Kazakh security forces in Aktobe, Kazakhstan

Pictured left: A video showing a riot officer being beaten by sticks and batons after being knocked to the floor. Right: Armed police round up protesters and detain them in Kazakhstan. The protesters are shown handcuffed and hooded

People take part in a protest. Protests were sparked by rising fuel prices in the towns of Zhanaozen and Aktau in western Kazakhstan, January 6, 2022

Pictured: Security forces carry out an operation to quell protesters in Kazakhstan. Media reports on Thursday said 18 security officers have been killed and 748 wounded

This handout image grab taken and released by the Russian Defence Ministry on January 6, 2021 shows Russian paratroopers boarding a military cargo plane to depart to Kazakhstan as a 'peacekeeping' force

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

Earlier, shocking footage showed dozens of corpses lined up in a morgue - giving a sense the scale of the carnage in the ex-Soviet republic where the worst violence since gaining independence in 1991 is continuing unabated. 

The video from the morgue showed 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.' 

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

Analysts say 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. 

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 answered a call by the current Kazakh president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev for military reinforcements to quell the protests.

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

Earlier, Britain called for an end to violent protests, voicing concerns about the mass unrest triggered by an increase in fuel prices.

'We are urging against further escalation and want to see a peaceful resolution,' Prime Minister Boris Johnson's official spokesman told reporters. 

Top European Union diplomat Josep Borrell said that Russia's military intervention in Kazakhstan brought back 'memories of situations to be avoided'.

Borrell expressed 'great concern' about the situation and added: 'Rights and security of civilians must be guaranteed ... EU is ready to support in addressing this crisis.' 

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.

Pictured left: Flames are seen inside the mayor's building in Almaty. Right: 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

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. 

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: 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. 

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

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. 

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

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 Russia will likely blame foreign meddling, experts have claimed the riots will strike fear in to the Kremlin. 

Analysts say 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.  

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 statue 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.

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