'Dozens' of Kazakhstan protesters killed by police in Almaty

Country has long been regarded as one of the most stable former Soviet republics

What's behind the unrest in Kazakhstan?

What's behind the unrest in Kazakhstan?
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Police in Kazakhstan killed “dozens” of protesters overnight when they tried to storm administrative buildings in the country's biggest city, Almaty, they told local media on Thursday.

“Last night, extremist forces tried to assault administrative buildings, the Almaty city police department, as well as local police commissariats. Dozens of assailants were eliminated,” police spokesman Saltanat Azirbek said.

About 2,000 people were detained in Almaty, Tass news agency quoted the Interior Ministry as saying on Thursday.

Several armoured personnel carriers and dozens of troops entered the main square in Almaty on Thursday morning where hundreds of people were protesting against the government for a third day, Reuters correspondents reported from the scene.

Gunshots were heard as troops approached the crowd, according to Reuters witnesses.

Saule, a 58-year-old construction worker who took part in the protests, said she was stunned when security forces opened fire on demonstrators.

"We saw the deaths," she told AFP. "Straight away about 10 were killed."

By the afternoon on Thursday, the official death toll stood at 13 security officers -- including two who were allegedly decapitated -- and "dozens" of protesters.

German airline Lufthansa on Thursday said it was no longer offering regular flights to Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty.

"Due to further developments, Lufthansa has now decided not to offer any more regular flights to Almaty until further notice," a spokesperson for the company told Reuters.

Almaty's airport was reportedly overrun by anti-government protesters on Wednesday, forcing flights to be cancelled, before it was later retaken by government security forces.

Lufthansa joins both Kuwait’s Jazeera airways and Dubai-based budget carrier flydubai in cancelling flights to Almaty given the current situation.

Kazakhstan government resigns as protests rage over fuel prices

Kazakhstan government resigns as protests rage over fuel prices

Overnight, a Russian-led military alliance said it would send peacekeeping troops to stabilise Kazakhstan, blaming “outside interference” for protests that have plunged the former Soviet country into chaos.

Long regarded as one the most stable former Soviet republics of Central Asia, energy-rich Kazakhstan was facing its biggest crisis in decades after protesters angry over rising fuel prices stormed government buildings.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said in an address to the nation early on Thursday that he had appealed to the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation, which includes five other former Soviet states, to combat what he called “terrorist groups” who had “received extensive training abroad".

The organisation's chairman, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, said on Facebook that the alliance would send “collective peacekeeping forces … for a limited period of time in order to stabilise and normalise the situation in this country”, which was caused by “outside interference".

Mr Tokayev said that “terrorists” were seizing buildings, infrastructure and “premises where small arms are located".

He said they had also commandeered five planes at the airport in the country's biggest city Almaty, and that Kazakhstan's air force was in a “stubborn battle” near the city.

“I intend to act as tough as possible,” Mr Tokayev warned in an earlier address. “Together we will overcome this black period in the history of Kazakhstan.”

On Thursday in New York, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said the organisation continued to follow the situation “very closely.”

Mr Dujarric confirmed several contacts between the UN and the authorities in Kazakhstan, including a call on Thursday morning between UN special representative Natalia Gherman and the Kazakh deputy foreign minister, Akan Rakhmetullin.

“During these exchanges, appeals to exercise restraint, refrain from violence and promote dialogue to address the situation were reiterated by Natalia Gherman on behalf of the Secretary General,” Mr Dujarric said.

Britain said on Thursday that it was concerned by the violent clashes in Kazakhstan. It said protests should be peaceful and the law-enforcement response proportionate.

"We call for calm and we condemn acts of violence and the destruction of property and buildings," the British Foreign Office said.

"We also call for a resumption of internet services and for the Kazakh authorities to respect their commitments to freedom of speech and expression."

Outrage over fuel prices

Protests spread across the nation of 19 million this week in outrage over a New Year increase in prices for liquefied petroleum gas, which is widely used to fuel cars in the west of the country.

Thousands took to the streets in Almaty and in the western province of Mangystau, saying the price rise was unfair given oil and gas exporter Kazakhstan's vast energy reserves.

The protests are the biggest threat so far to the regime established by Kazakhstan's founding president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who stepped down in 2019 and chose Mr Tokayev as his successor.

Mr Tokayev tried to avert further unrest by announcing the resignation of the government led by Prime Minister Askar Mamin early on Wednesday.

He said he was taking over from Mr Nazarbayev as head of the powerful Security Council, a surprise move given the former president's continued influence.

But with protests increasing, the government late on Wednesday said a state of emergency declared in protest-hit areas would be extended nationwide and in effect until January 19.

It imposes an overnight curfew, restricts movements and bans mass gatherings.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: January 06, 2022, 10:20 PM