Vladimir Putin sent paratroopers to Kazakhstan on Thursday to quell a massive nationwide revolt and an unprecedented institutional crisis, after violence swept through this former Condition Soviet strongly checked. Soul Ata, the country’s main city, looks like a war field where dozens of protesters were killed: the images show burned cars, burning buildings and a large military presence.
The violence reached such a point that state television said that 13 members of the security forces had died, including two who had been beheaded. A presidential residence and the mayor’s office were on fire. On Thursday afternoon, the city’s airport, previously seized by protesters, was under firm control by the military.
The spark that caused the outbreak
The revolt began as a protest against the rise in fuel prices on New Year’s Day., was drastically expanded on Wednesday, when protesters stormed and set fire to public buildings. They chanted slogans against Nursultan Nazarbayev -former almighty ruler since Soviet times- and, in at least one case, they wrapped ropes around a bronze statue of him in an attempt to bring it down.
For his part, the current president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev initially responded by firing his cabinet, reversing the rise in fuel prices and distancing himself from his predecessor. He also announced that he would assume a powerful security post that Nazarbayev had preserved.
But nevertheless, the actions didn’t seem like enough to appease the crowds who accuse the authorities of amassing enormous wealth in oil and minerals while the nation of 19 million people remained overwhelmingly poor.
The protests do not appear to have an identifiable leader or demands. Many of the protesters shouted “old man go“, A reference to Nazarbayev, who dominated the politics of Kazakhstan and his government was marked by a moderate cult of personality. Critics say he effectively instituted a clan system in government.
Nazarbayev He left office in 2019 as the last Soviet-era Communist Party chief still ruling a former Soviet state. But he and his family remained in control, holding key oversight positions for the security forces and the political apparatus in Nur-Sultan, the purpose-built capital that bears his name. He has not been seen or heard since the riots began.
The news agency TASS quoted the Kazakh Ministry of Health as saying that more than 1,000 people had been injured during the protests, and more than 400 of them were hospitalized.
The riots began as protests against the increase in the price of liquefied petroleum gas, a fuel used by the poor to power their cars.. But they quickly escalated into broader anti-government riots, fueling deep resentment over the three decades of rule by Nazarbayev and his successor.
The regime had cut the internet across the country and it was impossible to confirm the full scope of the demonstrations. But the riots were unprecedented in Kazakhstan, ruled firmly since Soviet times by the leader Nazarbayev, 81, who had held the reins despite leaving the presidency three years ago.
His successor, the president Tokayev he called during the night to Putin, within the framework of a military alliance of former Soviet states run by Moscow. He blamed the riots on “terrorists“Trained abroad who, he said, had seized buildings and weapons. “It is an attack on the integrity of the State and, above all, on our citizens, who ask me to help them urgently“, He said.
The secretariat of the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty, leadered by Russia, said the troops sent included units of Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. He did not reveal the total size of the force. Russian paratroopers were being transferred to Kazakhstan and “the advanced units of its contingent have already begun to fulfill the assigned tasks.”
An unverified video on social media showed troops patrolling the foggy streets of Alma Ata at night, firing guns, as well as widespread looting in the city.
Tokayev ordered the government to protect foreign embassies and businesses owned by foreign companies. The country’s reputation for stability had helped attract hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign investment in the oil and metals industries.
State television said the National Bank of Kazakhstan He had decided to suspend work for the safety of his workers.
(With information from Reuters and AP) .-