Kazakhstan: Dozens of protesters killed in riots as Russia deploys paratroopers

6 January 2022, 20:17 | Updated: 6 January 2022, 21:03

Kazakh protesters have rioted over rising fuel prices
Kazakh protesters have rioted over rising fuel prices. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Dozens of anti-government protesters have been killed by Kazakhstan's security forces after riots broke out.

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Demonstrators, furious at authoritarian government in the central Asian state and escalating energy prices, reportedly broke into the country's presidential residence and set it and other government offices on fire.

Security forces hit back, with a police spokeswoman saying "dozens of attackers were liquidated", while 12 officers were said to have been killed. One was reportedly beheaded and more than 350 were injured.

The escalating chaos was triggered by liquified petroleum gas prices nearly doubling. It is used as vehicle fuel.

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However, Kazakhstan has also been ruled by the same party since it broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991. Nursultan Nazarbayev ruled as president for 29 years from 1990, and chaired the country's national security council until the recent unrest.

Russian troops and other former Soviet states are intervening at the request of Kazakhstan's president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

Mr Tokayev claimed the protests were caused by "terrorist bands" supported by countries he did not name. He also said planes had been seized at Almaty's airport but the deputy mayor there said the airport was fine.

Members of Kazakhstan's government have resigned, while Mr Tokayev said he would clampdown on the protests.

He has imposed a two-week state of emergency covering the entirety of the vast nation, while police fired water cannons, tear gas and concussion grenades at furious demonstrators.

The capital, Nur-Sultan, and Almaty, a large city, already had an overnight curfew imposed, while movements in and out of urban areas is restricted and news websites became inaccessible.

Netblocks, a watchdog, said web users had experienced an internet blackout while Tass, the Russian news agency, said online access was back in Almaty on Thursday.

The Collective Security Treaty Organisation, which includes Kazakhstan and Russia along with Belarus, Tajikistan, Krygyzstan and Armenia, said Russian paratroopers had been deployed as peacekeepers. The total number of troops the Moscow-based alliance will send was not confirmed.

Bordered by Russia and China, Kazakhstan has extensive oil and mineral reserves but many endure poor living conditions in parts of the world's ninth largest nation.