MOSCOW – A Russian-led military alliance began deploying paratroopers to Kazakhstan on Thursday as part of a peacekeeping operation after a night of protests in the central Asian country turned violent, with police reporting that dozens of Anti-government protesters had been killed and hundreds. injured.
The peacekeeping effort, organized by a group that is the Russian version of NATO, will be limited in time and will aim to protect government buildings and military objects, the body said in a statement. He did not specify how many soldiers would be mobilized. Some troops have already started operating in Kazakhstan, according to the statement.
Saltanat Azirbek, a police spokesman in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, said authorities killed dozens of people when they tried to raid government buildings, police headquarters and district police offices, the first widespread deaths since the attacks began. protests. That announcement came after previous reports in the local media that police had opened fire on protesters in the oil city of Atyrau, killing at least one person.
Police warned people living near major government buildings to stay home.
The announcement of the military deployment came after a night of violent protests that swept through Kazakhstan’s cities, including Almaty, where some protesters arrived with firearms and began looting shops and malls, according to video images posted at the scene. Government buildings were burned, including the city hall and the former office of the country’s president. They also captured the airport.
Authorities reported that in addition to the deaths, about a thousand people were injured and up to 400 were hospitalized. At least eight members of the security forces have been killed in the clashes, police said Wednesday.
The revolt began on Sunday in western Kazakhstan in protest against rising fuel prices. Despite the government saying it would rescind the price hike, the protests widened and spread across the country, with broader demands for greater political representation and better social benefits.
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev issued a statement late at night, calling the protesters “a band of terrorists” who had been trained abroad. He declared that Kazakhstan was under attack and called for the intervention of the Russian-led alliance, called the Collective Security Treaty Organization, to which his country belongs.
The country’s schools have extended their winter break by one week and all commercial banks in Kazakhstan have been ordered to close. Internet access has also been sporadically cut off.
The scale of the protests caught most Central Asian observers by surprise: Kazakhstan has long been regarded as one of the most successful post-Soviet states. It has by far the highest GDP per capita in the region and many reserves.