Dozens Killed as Kazakhstan Cracks Down on Protests

Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev has ordered the police to crack down on protests in response to mass anti-government demonstrations. Dozens have been killed and hundreds arrested over the last week, sparking fears of a return to violence reminiscent of the country’s Soviet past.

Hundreds of people have been killed in Kazakhstan as the government cracks down on protests. The protests began after a change in legislation that would allow foreigners to buy land.

MOSCOW— Hundreds of people were murdered in Kazakhstan on Thursday as authorities cracked down on demonstrators following several days of turmoil, and a Russia-led coalition of former Soviet soldiers came to assist local police.

Hundreds of assailants were slain, according to the Russian news agency TASS, when they assaulted administrative buildings and the police station in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s biggest city.

According to TASS, Saltanat Azirbek, a spokesperson for the city’s police department, announced on Kazakh state television station Khabar 24 that they “have been exterminated and their identities are being determined.”

According to news source Interfax, reporting from Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan, 12 law enforcement personnel were murdered and more than 350 were wounded. According to the news agency, one of the cops was beheaded, citing allegations from Kazakh official media.


On Thursday, protesters clashed with Kazakstan’s security forces in Almaty, the country’s biggest city.

Getty Images/Alexander Platonov/Agence France-Presse

More than 1,000 individuals were hurt, with 400 of them being hospitalized, according to authorities.

TASS broadcast video showing troops in the streets firing volleys of machine gun fire while being backed up by armored vehicles.

The demonstrations started on Sunday in Kazakhstan’s western Mangistau district, when the government relaxed price controls on liquefied petroleum gas, the primary fuel for automobiles, causing prices to more than quadruple. The Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russian-led intergovernmental military alliance, said on Wednesday that its forces had been sent to Kazakhstan “to stabilize and normalize the situation” for a limited period.

The CSTO stated the force includes elements from Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan’s armed forces, and that it would be deployed for a short time.

Their deployment occurred after Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said on Wednesday that he had asked support from the alliance to combat a terrorist threat.

There was no way of knowing whether any of the soldiers were engaged in the killings of civilians.


During the rioting, the mayor’s office in Almaty was set on fire.

Valery Sharifulin/Zuma Press photo

The CSTO said that the primary duty of the alliance forces, whom it defined as peacekeepers, would be to defend critical state and military installations while also assisting Kazakh law enforcement officers in settling the situation.

As part of the operation, Russia, the alliance’s biggest military force and a longstanding ally of Kazakhstan, has sent airborne soldiers, according to the statement.

Mr. Tokayev and his predecessor, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who governed Kazakhstan since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and resigned in March 2019 but continues to wield political power behind the scenes, have had backing from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin cautioned against foreign involvement in its Central Asian ally’s uprising on Wednesday.

Attacks on administrative and military facilities in Almaty, as well as the seizure of the airport and the detention of foreign passenger and cargo planes, were evidence of a high level of preparation and coordination, according to Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry on Thursday, proving that the country was “facing an armed incursion by terrorist groups trained abroad.”

The actions were described as “an effort, inspired from the outside, to undermine the security and integrity of the state by force, employing trained and organized military formations,” according to Russia’s foreign ministry.

Russia’s foreign ministry said it would continue to confer with Kazakhstan and other CSTO partners on potential next moves, “mainly to support the conduct of the counter-terrorism operation by Kazakhstan’s law enforcement authorities.”

Authoritarian administrations in former Soviet countries regularly exploit the allegation of terrorism against demonstrators to smear their opponents.


On Thursday, Russian soldiers will depart for Kazakhstan as part of a ‘peacekeeping’ operation.

Russian Defense Ministry/Zuma Press photo

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, disputed what she called “some absurd Russian accusations” that the US was directing the upheaval on Wednesday. “Let me just take this moment to express that this is completely untrue and definitely part of the typical Russian disinformation playbook that we’ve seen a lot of in recent years,” she added.

The uprising is the latest in a series of protests in former Soviet republics against what protestors regard as a corrupt, authoritarian type of leadership supported by the Kremlin. In 2014, pro-Russian protesters in Ukraine threw out a pro-Russian president, causing Russia to deploy soldiers to invade Crimea and inflame a war in eastern Ukraine. Last year, demonstrations over a stolen election in Belarus were ruthlessly quashed by Moscow-backed President Alexander Lukashenko.

Although the demonstrations in Kazakhstan were sparked by a sudden increase in petrol costs, they swiftly evolved into a wider outcry against the leadership that has been in power since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Economic hardships and the country’s autocratic political structure, which permits little opposition, have been targets of protests.

Protests erupted in 2016 in response to proposed land privatization modifications, which fueled speculation that property may be purchased by Chinese investors. At the same time, the tenge’s depreciation had pushed up inflation and restricted buying power.

Mr. Tokayev, who previously served as Prime Minister and Speaker of the Senate, was appointed to succeed Mr. Nazarbayev in June 2019. Through his position as Secretary of the Security Council, the former leader has maintained his power.

Mr. Tokayev renamed the country’s capital Nur-Sultan in honor of Mr. Nazarbayev, and elevated the ex-daughter president’s to the influential position of Senate Speaker. Opposition parties were generally shut out of politics, rallies were often outlawed, and activist leaders were arrested.

The Kazakh government has vowed to combat high-level corruption, better distribute the riches of the country’s vast natural resources, and reform its authoritarian political system on several occasions. Promises of extensive privatization of public assets, hailed as indications of progress in the West, have fallen short.


On Wednesday, protesters gathered in Almaty for a demonstration.

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images/abduaziz madyarov

Ann M. Simmons and James Marson may be reached at [email protected] and [email protected], respectively.

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Thousands of people have been killed in Kazakhstan as the country cracks down on protests. Reference: kazakhstan unrest.

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