Kazakhstan: Dozens of protesters killed and security forces beheaded as Russia-led troops fly into ‘peacekeeping’ mission | World news

Dozens of protesters have been killed in Kazakhstan as new violence broke out in its largest city and Russian peacekeepers were on their way to the former Soviet republic.

A spokeswoman for the police told state news channel Khabar-24 that “dozens of attackers were liquidated” on Thursday night in Almaty.

Two members of the security forces were beheaded and are among at least 18 dead, authorities said.

Troops are seen on the main square in Almaty
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Troops on the main square in Almaty – a hotspot in the clashes

More than 350 police officers have also been injured, Khabar-24 reported.

The Interior Ministry said more than 2,000 people have been arrested so far.

The unrest changed after the price ceiling on gas removed

The protests began in the oil-producing western province of Mangistau on Sunday after a ceiling on liquefied petroleum gas – which many people use to power their cars – was removed, causing prices to double.

The country’s president reversed the rise, but the unrest, which has lasted for days, has turned into a broader set of complaints.

Smoke rises from the town hall building during a protest in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday, January 5, 2022. News media in Kazakhstan report that protesters protesting against rising fuel prices broke into the mayor's office in the country's largest city and flames were seen coming from the inside.  Kazakh news site Zakon said many of the protesters who showed up at the building in Almaty on Wednesday wore clubs and shields.  (AP Photo / Yan Blagov) PIC: AP
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Smoke rises from Almaty’s town hall building on Wednesday
A man takes a picture when a burned car is seen in front of the mayor's office building, which was set on fire during protests triggered by a rise in fuel prices in Almaty, Kazakhstan on January 6, 2022. REUTERS / Pavel Mikheyev
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The mayor’s office was one of the buildings that was lit.

The mayor’s office and presidential palace were set on fire in Almaty on Wednesday, and the airport was temporarily seized, with ongoing fighting between masses of protesters and police.

Police were also out in force in the capital Nur-Sultan, which was reported to be quiet.

Two weeks state of emergency

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has blamed foreign-trained “terrorist” gangs, and a Russian-led military alliance is sending troops on a “peacekeeping” mission.

A detailed satellite map highlighting the main areas of protest
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The main areas of protest in Almaty

ONE two weeks of state of emergency has been declared nationwide, curfew imposed and the whole government has resigned in Kazakhstan most dramatic upheaval since the fall of the Soviet Union.

New battles were reported Thursday night in Almaty’s main square, occupied during the day by hundreds of troops and protesters.

The riot police are out on the streets of Almaty while the riots continue
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The riot police are out on the streets in Almaty

Reuters reporters said they heard explosions and gunfire as military vehicles and soldiers advanced, but that the shooting stopped after dark.

Internet outages make it difficult to measure the extent of the unrest in the vast country with a population of 19 million.

Protesters anger former leader

Much of the protesters’ anger is directed at former longtime leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, who quit in 2019 but is still powerful and whose family is believed to control much of the economy.

The song about “Old man, go away!” have been heard in videos, such as one from Aqtobe, in the west of the country where police fired water cannons and stun grenades.

President Tokayev said early Thursday: “Almaty was attacked, destroyed, vandalized, the people of Almaty fell victim to attacks by terrorists, bandits, therefore it is our duty … to take all possible measures to protect our state.”

Photo: AP
Russian soldiers board a military plane en route to Kazakhstan at an airport outside Moscow, Russia on January 6, 2022, in this still image taken from video.
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Russia’s Defense Ministry released photos of troops and vehicles loaded on planes near Moscow. Photo: AP

Troops from the Collective Security Treaty Organization – an alliance of Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – have been deployed.

About 2,500 peacekeepers are being sent – but that could increase, the alliance’s secretary general told Russia’s news agency RIA.

It is expected to be a mission of “a few days or weeks,” the RIA quoted him as saying.

It is unclear if they are on the ground yet, but on Thursday, Russia released photos of troops and vehicles boarding planes in Moscow.

In this photo taken from video released by the Russian Ministry of Defense press service, military vehicles from Russian peacekeepers parked and waited to be transported to Russian military aircraft at an airport outside Moscow in Russia to fly to Kazakhstan on Thursday, January 6, 2022. A Russia The leader of the military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, said early Thursday that it would send peacekeeping troops to Kazakhstan at the request of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.  PICTURE: AP
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Russian vehicles are on their way to Kazakhstan for what is described as a peacekeeping mission
Belarusian officials showed a Russian plane with troops on board, preparing to take off from an airfield outside Minsk.  Photo: AP
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Belarusian officials showed a plane getting ready to take off from an airport outside Minsk. Photo: AP

Belarus has also released pictures of a plane with troops waiting to arrive from the capital Minsk.

NATO foreign ministers are due to meet on the crisis on Friday, while the EU has said that “civil rights and security must be guaranteed”.

“External military assistance brings back memories of situations to be avoided,” tweeted EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken “advocates for a peaceful, rights-respecting solution to the crisis” in a discussion with his counterpart, a spokesman said.

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