Nearly 8,000 detained in violent Kazakhstan protests

By Dasha Litvinova | Associated Press

MOSCOW — Nearly 8,000 people in Kazakhstan were detained by police during protests that descended into violence last week and marked the worst unrest the former Soviet nation has faced since gaining independence 30 years ago, authorities said Monday.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Monday described the unrest that followed initially peaceful protests against rising energy prices as a “terrorist aggression” against the mineral-rich Central Asian nation of 19 million and dismissed reports that authorities targeted peaceful demonstrators as “disinformation.”

Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry reported that 7,939 people have been detained across the country. The National Security Committee, Kazakhstan’s counterintelligence and anti-terrorism agency, said Monday the situation has “stabilized and is under control.”

Monday was declared a day of mourning for the victims of the violent unrest, which the health ministry says killed 164 people, including three children.

The demonstrations began on Jan. 2 over a near-doubling of prices for vehicle fuel and quickly spread across the country, with political slogans reflecting wider discontent with Kazakhstan’s authoritarian government.

In a concession, the government announced a 180-day price cap on vehicle fuel and a moratorium on utility rate increases. As the unrest mounted, the ministerial cabinet resigned and the president replaced Nursultan Nazarbayev, former longtime leader of Kazakhstan, as head of the National Security Council.

One of the main slogans of the past week’s protests, “Old man out,” was a reference to Nazarbayev, who served as president from Kazakhstan’s independence until he resigned in 2019 and anointed Tokayev as his successor. Nazarbayev had retained substantial power at the helm of the National Security Council.

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Despite the concessions, the protests turned extremely violent for several days. In Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, the protesters set the city hall on fire and stormed and briefly seized the airport. For several days, sporadic gunfire was reported in the city streets.

The authorities declared a state of emergency over the unrest, and Tokayev requested help from the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russia-led military alliance of six former Soviet states. The group has authorized sending about 2,500 mostly Russian troops to Kazakhstan as peacekeepers.

Tokayev has said the demonstrations were instigated by “terrorists” with foreign backing, although the protests have shown no obvious leaders or organization. On Friday, he said he ordered police and the military to shoot to kill “terrorists” involved in the violence.

In a statement Monday, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry said the peaceful protests “were hijacked by terrorist, extremist and criminal groups,” including radical Islamist fighters with combat experience.

Speaking Monday at an extraordinary virtual summit of CSTO, Tokayev promised to reveal to the world “additional evidence” of a “terrorist aggression” against Kazakhstan. He stressed that the demands of peaceful protesters have been “heard and met by the state,” and the unrest that followed involved “groups of armed militants” whose goal was to overthrow the government.

Russian President Vladimir Putin echoed that sentiment, calling the unrest “an act of aggression” masterminded from abroad.

“The events in Kazakhstan are not the first and not the last …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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