Unrest Peaks in Kazakhstan with “Fire Without Warning” Order

Unrest Peaks in Kazakhstan with “Fire Without Warning” Order
A police car burns during a protest in Almaty, Kazakhstan. | Image by Pavel Mikheyev, Reuters

Violence and political turmoil have reached a breaking point in Kazakhstan, as Russian forces joined Kazakh authorities in Almaty. The unrest allegedly began with a protest over skyrocketing gas prices in Zhanaozen, which remained relatively peaceful and benign until now.

It is not yet apparent to the media how the demonstrations in Zhanaozen boiled over to such an extent as to allegedly spread violence across the country.

Corruption in the government was the reason cited by many protestors, but additional information is scarce, as internet access and travel through Kazakhstan have been restricted. Dozens of protestors are reportedly dead, including several Kazakh police officers, Radina Gigova from CNN reports.

This protest differs from the previous uprisings due to the sheer number of people taking to the streets, with tens of thousands participating. The Russian government has gone as far as to step in and assist Kazakhstan officials in stopping the protests. Images have surfaced of burning government buildings and overturned cars, with a thick cloud of smoke settling throughout cities.

Protestors were heard chanting “Shal ket”, or “Old men must go,” referring to the overreach of authority by Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev. He stepped down in 2019, but his successor, Tokayev, is said to be no more than a “political puppet.”

“Everyone in the country understands that Tokayev is just a nominee and that he doesn’t have any political power and influence within the country. The chants refer to the whole system that Nazarbayev built,” says Kazakh lawyer Bota Jardemalie.

Tokayev is the one who issued the “shoot without warning” order, which allowed authorities to put down any rioters. Kazakhstan authorities have reportedly imprisoned journalists and outspoken opposition to the current government.

The Nur Otan party, which President Nursultan Nazarbayev headed, has run the country with an authoritarian outlook for over 20 years. Kazakhstan is massive, both in size and economy, was previously ruled by the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan’s GDP of $171.2 billion dwarfs surrounding central Asian countries.

According to an NBC report, much of the economy is controlled by President Nazarbayev and his family, fueling the raging protests across the country.

Bordering countries of Russia and China have a stake in Kazakhstan, both for political reasons and its vast deposit of natural resources, says James Nixey, from the London Chatham House. After China restricted cryptocurrency mining last year, Kazakhstan has also been an important player in the crypto mining business.

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