Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

Kazakh Interior Ministry says eight police officers have died in unrest caused by rising fuel prices.

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said he had called on a Russian-led security bloc for help after failing to suppress. days of protests in the former Soviet nation that saw state buildings set on fire and eight security personnel reported dead.

The Central Asian country was shaken by protests since the beginning of the year against a New Year’s fuel price increase that escalated Wednesday into protesters clashing with police and storming government buildings.

“Today, I called on the heads of CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) states to help Kazakhstan overcome this terrorist threat,” Tokayev said on state television early Thursday.

“In fact, it is no longer a threat,” he added. “It undermines the integrity of the state.”

Moscow leads the CSTO security alliance, which includes five other former Soviet states.

Tokayev, who had previously declared a nationwide state of emergency, said terrorist groups – which he said had “received extensive training abroad” – were “currently raging” across the country.

“They seized buildings and infrastructure and, above all, seized the premises where handguns were located,” he said, adding that they also seized five planes at the airport in the country’s largest city, Almaty.

“There is currently a fight going on near Almaty with the air force of the Ministry of Defense, a stubborn fight,” Tokayev claimed.

The deputy mayor later said the airport had been cleared of protesters and was operating normally.

The Kazakh Interior Ministry said eight police officers and national guardsmen were killed in the unrest and more than 300 were injured. No figures on civilian casualties were released.

Damaged police cars during protests caused by fuel price increase in Almaty, KazakhstanDamaged cars are seen near the mayor’s office during protests caused by fuel price increase in Almaty, Kazakhstan [Stringer/Reuters]

On Wednesday, protesters in Almaty stormed the presidential residence and the mayor’s office and set both on fire, according to news reports.

The police apparently fired at some protesters at the home in Almaty before they fled. They have repeatedly clashed with protesters in recent days, deploying water cannons in the icy weather and firing tear gas and concussion grenades.

Tokayev promised to take strict measures to suppress the unrest and declare a two-week state of emergency for the whole country, expanding one announced for both the capital of Nur-Sultan and Almaty which instituted an overnight call rule and movement to and around the urban areas limited.

The government resigned on Wednesday in response to the unrest. Kazakh news sites became inaccessible late in the day, and the global watchdog organization Netblocks said the country was experiencing a pervasive internet outage, but Russian news agency Tass reported that internet access was restored early Thursday in Almaty.

Although the protests began over an almost doubling of prices for a type of liquefied petroleum gas widely used as a vehicle fuel, their size and rapid distribution suggested that it reflected greater dissatisfaction in the country since the same party’s rule. gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

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, dissatisfaction with poor living conditions is strong in some parts of the country. Many Kazakhs are also eroding the dominance of the ruling party, which holds more than 80 percent of the seats in parliament.

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