What is happening in Kazakhstan? Keys to understanding the wave of violence in the streets

The protests of citizens in Kazakhstan do not stop and the president of that country, Kassym Jomart Toyakev, has asked Russia and its allies of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to provide “peacekeeping troops” to help him. to regain control.

But that is not all. Tokayev on Friday ordered the security forces to “shoot to kill without prior notice” against the protesters who have caused serious disturbances in recent days, whom he described as “bandits”, if they resist the authorities.

Added to this crisis is the internet and telephone blackout in much of the country, according to Netblocks, making it difficult to obtain reliable figures on the number of victims after the violent clashes in Almaty and other cities. Here are the five keys to the conflict:

The demonstrations began last weekend in several provinces of Kazakhstan due to the increase in fuel prices and reached Almaty, the main city of the country, where a revolt against corruption, poverty and inequality broke out.

According to the Interior Ministry, the wave of protests has so far left 18 members of the security forces dead and 748 injured. Authorities have established 70 checkpoints across the country and more than 3,800 people have been detained.

Added to the rise in prices, the anger of the protesters is directed against former president Nursultán Nazarbayev, 81, who led the country in an authoritarian way from 1989 to 2019. He retains great influence in the Government and is considered the mentor of the current President Kassym Jomart Toyakev.

According to reports, protesters stormed several Kazakhstan government buildings on Wednesday, January 5, including the mayor’s office and the presidential residence, which ended up blackened by smoke. On Thursday the 8th the confrontations continued.

In central Almaty, an AFP correspondent reported that charred vehicles and pools of blood remained on the streets following an unprecedented wave of unrest.

Most flights to the country were canceled and Russian press agencies reported, citing Kazakh officials, that Almaty airport will only be operational for military flights until Sunday.

Kazakh President Kassym Jomart Tokayev has called the protesters “terrorist groups” and accused them of having received “training abroad”. This Friday, Tokayev authorized the forces of order to shoot to kill against the protesters. “I have given the order to shoot to kill without prior notice,” he assured the cameras.

In his opinion, the main city of the country, Almaty, was attacked by some 20,000 men, “both local and foreign”, trained and with “a clear plan”. Hours earlier, the Kazakh president declared that constitutional order had been “widely restored in all regions.”

After accusing “terrorist gangs” formed abroad of being behind the wave of violence, President Tokaev reported that he had requested the help of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), an alliance of former Soviet nations led by Russia.

The alliance is currently made up of Armenia, Biolorussia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan, and was conceived as a union to counter external military threats.

Last Thursday, Russia and its CSTO allies announced the dispatch of the first contingent of a “collective peacekeeping force” to Kazakhstan. The group is mainly made up of Russian military personnel (paratroopers), whose objective is “to protect buildings and other state and military facilities, as well as, in general, to assist the authorities with the aim of stabilizing the situation.”

Kazakhstan shares a 7,598-kilometer border with Russia. It is the second longest land border in the world, after the one that separates the United States from Canada.

The former Soviet republic also has a 1,782-kilometer border with China, with 1,215 kilometers of land and 566 kilometers of water.

The Kazakh-Chinese border was established after the fall of the USSR and the independence of Kazakhstan, which was previously part of the Communist Empire and, previously, the Russian Empire.

Kazakhstan is the largest economy in Central Asia, experiencing double-digit growth, but in 2014 it was hit hard by the slump in oil prices, on which it depends heavily.

Oil accounted for 21% of the country’s GDP in 2020, according to the World Bank, which expects the economy to grow 3.7% this year. The country’s main oil field, Tengiz, accounts for a third of Kazakhstan’s annual production and is 50% controlled by the US company Chevron.

Kazakhstan is home to the Russian-owned Baikonur Cosmodrome, which 60 years later remains the world’s largest launch pad since Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin took off and became the first man in space.

Kazakhstan is the world’s largest producer of uranium and also has manganese, iron, chromium and coal in abundance. The country has linked the future of its economy to neighboring China, investing heavily in its network of roads, railways, and port infrastructure to facilitate trade ties.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday praised the deadly crackdown that the Kazakh government adopted to quell the protests, calling Kazakh President Kassym Jomart Tokayev a “very responsible” leader, local media reported.

“You took forceful measures at a critical moment and quickly calmed the situation, showing your position of responsibility and a sense of duty as a politician, showing yourself very responsible towards your country and people,” Xi told Tokayev in a message, as reported the official Xinhua agency.

The president of France, Emmanuel Macron, and the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, called on Friday for an end to the violence in Kazakhstan and urged the parties to restrain.

“The rights and security of citizens are paramount and must be guaranteed. I call for an end to violence and restraint, ”Von der Leyen said in a joint conference with Macron, who supported this statement.

“We are both concerned and extremely vigilant, and that is why we have called for a de-escalation,” said the French president.

Meanwhile, the spokeswoman for the German Government, Christiane Hoffmann, expressed her conviction that violence in Kazakhstan “is never the appropriate response.”

“We call on all interested parties to reduce the escalation and reach a peaceful solution,” he added.

With information from AFP and EFE