Kazakhstan’s revolt continues Thousands arrested, dozens killed, and gunfire in Almaty as authorities crackdown on protesters
With Kazakhstan under a state of emergency due to mass protests, the Collective Security Treaty Organization deployed troops to the country on January 6 to help quell the unrest. Earlier, Kazakhstani President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev issued several emergency orders to his cabinet, calling for the formation of a special group to carry out investigations and prosecutions regarding the demonstrations and rioting. Meanwhile, lines formed outside grocery stores, ATMs, and gas stations as people scrambled to buy food and fuel and withdraw cash. Banks have shut down across the country and Internet access remains intermittent. Tasked with dispersing the remaining demonstrators, the Kazakhstani Interior Ministry has vowed to “destroy” anyone who refuses to “lay down arms.”
Actions by protesters
- In Almaty, 200–250 protesters gathered on Republic Square early on January 6. Later in the day, local media outlets reported the sounds of explosions and gunfire near the square, where several hundred protesters remained despite a special operation underway in the city. In the evening, the Kazakhstani Interior Ministry confirmed that Republic Square had been “cleared.”
- According to other reports, protesters in Almaty surrounded two hospitals, blocking access for doctors and patients. Government sources reported clashes with the police near one of the two hospitals.
- In Aktau, protesters gathered at a public square on the morning of January 6. Hours later, the demonstrators announced that the peaceful rally was over, but some protesters remained in the square.
Actions by Kazakhstani authorities
- Late on January 6, Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry reported that police had arrested at least 2,298 people. Earlier, the Interior Ministry said officials had arrested roughly 2,000 people in Almaty alone.
- Kazakhstani state television channels aired footage of security forces dispersing protesters in Almaty. Security forces have reportedly regained control of government buildings in the city, including the former residence of President Tokayev. Entry into the city has been cut off almost completely.
- The Kazakhstani Interior Ministry has promised to “destroy” anyone who refuses to “lay down [their] arms.” An Almaty police official reported that law enforcement had “repelled an attack” on the police headquarters, saying “the terrorists were destroyed.”
- Kazakhstani Interior Ministry spokespeople say clashes with demonstrators and rioters have claimed the lives of 18 police officers and injured at least 784 officers and National Guard members.
- The Kazakhstani authorities have not released any reports on the number of civilians killed or injured. Eyewitnesses reported several casualties following clashes with police near Republic Square in downtown Almaty on January 6, according to the Russian state news agency TASS. (Gunfire and blasts can be heard in videos circulating on Telegram.)
- The government announced plans to cap the price of liquified petroleum gas at 50–65 tenge ($0.11–$0.15) per liter (per 0.26 U.S. liquid gallons, meaning a maximum price of $0.57 per gallon) for the next 180 days. Initially, the authorities wanted to raise the price to 120 tenge ($0.28) per liter (about $1.06 per gallon) — this doubling of fuel costs sparked the large-scale demonstrations that have now swept the country.
- The Union of Trade Networks of Kazakhstan estimated the damages from looting at around $57 million.
- School holidays in Kazakhstan were extended until January 17, and university and college students won’t return to class until January 24.
- In a statement on the CSTO’s decision to deploy forces to Kazakhstan, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that it considers the unrest to be “an externally incited attempt to undermine the security and integrity of the [Kazakhstani] state by means of force, using trained and organized armed formations.” The Foreign Ministry also stated that Russia and the other CSTO member states are “interested in restoring normal life” in Kazakhstan “as soon as possible.”
- The Organization of Turkic States — an intergovernmental group that includes Kazakhstan, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan — announced its readiness to support Kazakhstan, “if necessary.” However, the statement also said that the Kazakhstani authorities should be able to de-escalate the situation peacefully and restore order independently.
- Belarusian head of state Alexander Lukashenko appealed to the protesters in Kazakhstan “on behalf of Belarusians,” urging them to negotiate with President Tokayev and apologize to the security forces. “Well, you made some noise, shouted — and that’s enough. You need to negotiate before you go too far,” he urged. “As the popular saying goes, you need to go and get down on your knees and apologize to the military in order to smooth out this crack that has emerged. And sit down with the authorities, with Tokayev.”
- Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya condemned the involvement of Belarusian troops in the CSTO operation in Kazakhstan as an “armed intervention in the affairs of another state.” “Only the inhabitants of Kazakhstan have the right to determine the fate of their country and defend their choice,” she underscored.
- Representatives of the Taliban have urged the Kazakhstani government and the protesters “to resolve issues through talks and peaceful means.”