Kazakhstan’s week of violent unrest
With dozens reported dead in violent protests in Kazakhstan and Russia sending troops to quell the unrest, AFP looks at how the once stable but repressive Central Asian country has been thrown into chaos.
– LPG price hike sparks fury –
Protests erupt over the weekend in the town of Zhanaozen in the oil-rich western Mangystau region over a New Year increase in prices for liquid petroleum gas (LPG), which is used for cars.
Unrest spreads to the regional hub of Aktau on the ex-Soviet country’s Caspian Sea coast.
On Tuesday, thousands furious at the price rise take to the streets of Almaty, the largest city, with police firing tear gas and stun grenades.
– State of emergency –
Later that night, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev imposes a state of emergency in the city and in the restive west after saying he would cut the price of LPG there in a bid to assuage the protesters.
Many chant “Old Man Out!”, a reference to Tokayev’s still-powerful predecessor and mentor Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Images posted on social media later show a statue of the ex-president being torn down.
WhatsApp and other popular messaging apps like Telegram and Signal are down.
– Almaty in chaos –
Tokayev sacks his cabinet early Wednesday in a bid to head off the unprecedented unrest but protesters gather again, blocking roads and storming Almaty’s local government headquarters.
The mayor’s office and the presidential residence in the city are later reportedly left in flames.
Internet and mobile phone networks are cut, with the state of emergency extended nationwide.
– ‘Massive attacks’ –
Tokayev accuses the protesters of “massive attacks on law enforcement” that left several dead and many wounded, and claims the country is under attack by “terrorist” groups.
“I intend to act as tough as possible,” he says.
The White House and the United Nations appeal to Kazakh authorities to show “restraint”.
– Appeal to Moscow –
Late on Wednesday, the embattled president appeals for help to quell the protests from the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation.
Videos on social media show pillaged shops in Almaty and automatic gunfire on the streets.
Russian paratroopers are dispatched.
– Dozens dead, 1,000 wounded –
In a televised address early Thursday, Tokayev says “terrorists” are seizing buildings, infrastructure and small arms, and battling security forces.
Police say they killed “dozens” of protesters overnight as they tried to take over government buildings and police stations.
Thirteen security officers have been killed — two of whom were decapitated — and 353 wounded in the unrest, local media report. The health ministry says 1,000 people have been wounded.