State of emergency imposed across all of Kazakhstan over mass unrest
NUR-SULTAN. Jan 6 (Interfax) - Kazakhstan has imposed a two-week state of emergency nationwide as mass protests across the country over a fuel price rise turned into violent riots.
The restrictions will remain in place until January 19, state television channel Khabar 24 reported on Wednesday.
"They were introduced due to the aggravation of the situation to ensure public safety, restore law and order," the report said.
The Kazakh government resigned in the early hours of Wednesday, and Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has promised political transformation against the backdrop of the current crisis.
Access to the Internet has been blocked in Almaty and in some parts of the capital Nur-Sultan, and the WhatsApp and Telegram messengers haven't been working, either, since January 4.
Unauthorized rallies against a hike in prices for liquefied petroleum gas from 60 to 120 tenge per liter starting January 1, 2022 have been continuing in western Kazakhstan since January 2. Workers of oil fields have joined the protesters. Residents of several cities around Kazakhstan have also gathered for rallies in support of the protesters in the western part of the country. In addition to calls for reducing the gas prices, some demonstrators have begun to demand a general improvement in the people's socioeconomic wellbeing and press for the government's resignation. Hundreds of demonstrators marched along Almaty streets on January 4, reaching the city's Republic Square, where clashes between protesters and police broke out.
As many as 190 people injured during mass protests in Kazakhstan's Almaty have sought medical care, the city's public health department said on Wednesday.
"A total of 190 people have sought medical aid. Of them, 150 were transported to hospitals by ambulance, and another 40 arrived at hospitals on their own. Forty people were hospitalized. Of them, seven, among them four police officers, are now in intensive care," the department said.
"The overall number of those injured includes 137 policemen and 53 civilians," it said.
Terrorists near Almaty have clashed with airborne troops of the Defense Ministry of Kazakhstan, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said.
"Terrorist gangs are fighting school cadets. Currently there is fighting near Almaty with an airborne unit of the Kazakhstan Defense Ministry," Tokayev said at an emergency meeting broadcast by state television channels on Wednesday.
He said the fighting was "fierce."
A fire broke out in the city administration headquarters of Kazakhstan's Almaty after protesters burst into the building on Wednesday. Later that day, the Kazakh presidential residence in Almaty was also set ablaze, according to videos posted by eyewitnesses on social media. Social media have also published pictures showing a ruined monument to former Kazakhstani president Nursultan Nazarbayev in Taldykorgan. The latest pictures show the monument broken down in half, with the upper part lying on the pavement, and a commemorative plaque saying, Nazarbayev Prospekt, near by.
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed a decree on Wednesday, accepting the resignation of the country's government.
The president's decree to this effect is available for viewing on the presidential website.
"The resignation of the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan shall be accepted in accordance with Article 70 of the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan," according to the document.
"Alikhan Askhanovich Smailov [first deputy prime minister in the government that has resigned] shall be appointed the acting prime minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan," it said.
Under the decree, all government members will continue performing their duties until a new government is approved.
The document enters into force on the day of signing.
Tokayev also signed a decree on Wednesday to appoint Yerlan Karin as the country's new secretary of state.
The decree, which has been published on the presidential website, said that "Yerlan Tynymbaiuly Karin shall be appointed the secretary of state of the Republic of Kazakhstan and shall be relieved of the post of an aide to the president of the Republic of Kazakhstan."
Tokayev signed another decree, relieving Krymbek Kusherbayev of the post of secretary of state.
Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has promised political transformation against the backdrop of the current crisis and mass riots in his country.
"Very soon I will speak with new proposals regarding the political transformation of Kazakhstan. I stick to the position of sustained reforms," Tokayev said in a statement broadcast on the state television channel Khabar 24 on Wednesday.
"There have been mass assaults on law enforcement officers, some of them are dead and injured. Crowds of disruptive elements are beating up servicemen and abusing them, parading them naked through the streets, attacking women and looting shops. The situation is threatening the safety of all residents of Almaty. And this must not be tolerated. As well as Almaty, tensions are also running high in several other centers, hence my decision to impose a state of emergency in a number of regions," Tokayev said.
"What is noteworthy is the high organization of the disruptive elements. This attests to a thoroughly thought-through plan of financially motivated plotters. Precisely plotters," he said.
"As the head of state and, from this day, as chairman of the Security Council I intend to take maximally tough action," he said.
"It is a matter of safety of our citizens who have appealed with numerous requests to protect them and their families. It is a matter of our national security. I am certain I will have the people's backing," the president said.
He stressed he was not going to flee the country. "No matter what, I will be in the capital. This is my constitutional duty, to be with my people. Together we will overcome this dark moment in the history of Kazakhstan and emerge stronger."
He also thanked law enforcers and the military who "who took the blow from belligerent groupings and are unfortunately sustaining losses. I express my condolences and sympathy for them."
The state of emergency will be accompanied by an array of measures and temporary restrictions, including tighter measures to protect public order and critical state, strategic, infrastructure, and transport facilities. Travel, including the movement of transport vehicles, has been restricted as well.
Other measures include ID checks, body searches, searches of belongings, searches of transport vehicles.
Furthermore, a temporary ban has been imposed on peaceful assemblies, entertainment and other mass events, strikes and other methods of suspending or halting the operation of legal entities.
There is also a ban on the sale of weapons, ammunition, explosives, special-purpose items, and toxic substances. Apart from that, strict rules have been introduced for the turnover of medications and narcotic and psychotropic substances, precursors, ethanol, and alcohol products.
The same decree orders the Kazakh prosecutor general to ensure compliance with the law during the enforcement of these measures and temporary restrictions. The government, in turn, has been instructed to allocate all necessary funds from its reserve to maintain the state of emergency.
Phone, Internet services switched off
Phone and Internet services were switched off in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan and the country's largest city of Almaty on Wednesday, Interfax correspondent reported.
The services were disconnected almost instantaneously at around 5:00 p.m. local time. There is currently no Internet connection, and the landlines in the city are not working either.
Kazakh websites, including the websites of some of Kazakhstan's media outlets, cannot be accessed by users in other countries, and people in Kazakhstan are reporting mobile signal problems.
Kazakh citizens currently abroad have said they are having difficulty getting in touch with their relatives in Nur-Sultan and Almaty by phone and via popular messengers.
A number of Kazakh websites, including the websites of popular Kazakh media outlets, are currently inaccessible abroad. There are also problems with access to the www.interfax.kz website.
People in Kazakhstan have said that a number of television channels, including KTK and Channel one Eurasia, have suspended their broadcast in the country.
However, the state television channel Khabar 24 and the Channel 31 TV station are continuing to broadcast.
Almaty airport shut down
The airport of Almaty has shut down after being seized by protestors, the news website Orda.kz reported.
"The whole day passengers were being told that the army was protecting the airport, planes were flying as usual, and check-ins were carried out manually. Now the airport's security service tells us, we apologize, the airport has been seized. There will be no flights today," the website said, citing blogger Alisher Yelikbayev.
According to the website, Yelikbayev is at a hotel near the airport and was due to fly out at midnight.
Protestors who have seized the airport in Almaty have smashed its inside terminal and duty free section, an airport official said.
"At around 8:30 p.m. local time the protestors seized the airport in Almaty. They broke onto the grounds of the airport, smashed the inside terminal and Duty Free. Passengers were led away through a temporary warehouse. Staff also were removed," the source told Interfax.
One plane landed already after the airport was seized, he said. Its passengers disembarked in darkness.
There will be no flights from Belarus to Kazakhstan until the situation in the latter has stabilized, the press service for Minsk national airport said on Wednesday.
"Due to the unfavorable situation in the Republic of Kazakhstan, the aviation department of the Belarusian Ministry of Transport and Communications has decided to cancel Belavia flights to Kazakh airports until the situation stabilizes," a statement said.
The ministry said it made the decision amid "the uncertainty about air safety requirements being met at the airport of Almaty. Flights to airports in Kazakhstan will only be made with permission from the aviation department depending on the current situation."
Earlier on Wednesday Belavia said its today's flight to Almaty had been cancelled.
The situation in the city of Baikonur remains calm against the backdrop of protests underway in other parts of Kazakhstan, and the city's law enforcement agencies are functioning as usual, the press service for the Russian State Space Corporation Roscosmos said on Wednesday.
"The situation in the city of Baikonur is quiet. All law enforcement agencies are functioning as usual," the press service said.
Roscosmos general director Dmitry Rogozin is being kept up to date on the situation in Baikonur by the city administration's head Konstantin Busygin, it said.
Moscow closely watching
The Russian Foreign Ministry has said that it is closely watching the developments in Kazakhstan and stands for a peaceful solution to be found to all problems in line with Kazakh constitution and laws and with the help of dialogue rather than through street riots.
"We are closely following the developments in this fraternal neighboring country. We stand for a peaceful solution to be found to all problems in line with the constitution and laws and with the help of dialogue rather than through street riots and violations of laws. This is the goal of the steps being taken by President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to stabilize the situation and to promptly resolve all existing problems, including those outlined in protesters' legal demands," the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday in a statement dealing with the situation in Kazakhstan.
"Hopefully, the situation will be normalized as soon as possible in the country, with which Russia has a strategic partnership and allied, fraternal and people-to-people contacts," it said.
"We are keeping in touch with Russia's diplomatic missions in Kazakhstan. The situation around our diplomatic and consular missions remains calm. The information currently available indicates that no citizens of the Russian Federation currently present in the Republic of Kazakhstan have been injured," the ministry said.
"We are continuing to closely watch the situation unfolding there," it said.
The Kazakh authorities will be able to settle the situation in their country, and Russia stands ready to extend any non-military assistance to Kazakhstan should such a need arise, First Deputy Chairman of the Russian Federation Council's Foreign Affairs Committee Vladimir Dzhabarov told Interfax on Wednesday.
"I think that the authorities of Kazakhstan will cope with this situation, will sort it out. They are taking active measures to ease tensions in society," Dzhabarov said.
"We wish our Kazakh friends and brothers every success in finding a way out of this situation. Russia is always by your side and is ready to help," the senator said, adding that he is speaking about non-military assistance, including, for instance, economic aid.
The situation currently unfolding in Kazakhstan should not be regarded as a political crisis, Dzhabarov said.
"I wouldn't give such harsh assessments that it is a political crisis. A situation like this one could occur in any country. Other former Soviet states have gone through that as well," he said.
The ongoing developments in Kazakhstan are this country's internal affair, and it is important to avoid extremes and to maintain unity, Russian Federation Council Deputy Speaker Konstantin Kosachyov said.
"The current situation is exclusively an internal issue of Kazakhstan. The only thing we can do is to call on the people who are friendly toward us to avoid extremes and to emerge from this situation at the same time preserving the nation's sense of unity, which has always been its hallmark," Kosachyov told Interfax on Wednesday when commenting on the situation currently unfolding in Kazakhstan.
The situation in Kazakhstan must continue to abide by the law, and it is important to avert bloodshed and victims, Chairman of the Russian State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee Leonid Slutsky said on Telegram on Wednesday.
"It is more important today than ever before for the situation to continue abiding by the law, to stop forces interested in general destabilization on former Soviet soil from taking advantage of it, and to prevent bloodshed and victims," Slutsky said.
Hopefully, the situation in Kazakhstan will return to normal as soon as possible.
The current escalation in Kazakhstan is a result of errors of the country's leadership, according to Leonid Kalashnikov, who chairs the CIS committee in the Russian State Duma.
"This situation is a consequence of a series of errors made by the leadership of Kazakhstan. I don't doubt that. Quite obviously, they should not have raised prices to such a level," Kalashnikov told Interfax on Wednesday.
"This can be rectified if Kazakhstani President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and his government demonstrate not just their firmness but also take some exhaustive measures, take overall control of the economic situation, regulate prices in people's interest," he said.
"What they need to do now is to calm people down, solve a number of issues, given that Kazakhstan is a rich country," while also, "of course, in this situation, reining in the appetites of the oligarchs who are hiding there, not least behind certain politicians," Kalashnikov said.
Furthermore, "Tokayev's promise to act maximally tough should help settle the situation," he said.
Russian citizens in Kazakhstan should stay away from crowded places and exercise caution, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
"Due to the complicated situation in Kazakhstan our advice to Russian citizens is to exercise caution, refrain from going to crowded places, stay in hotel/place of stay, follow updates from Russia's foreign outposts and Foreign Ministry," the ministry's crisis situation center said on Telegram-channel on Wednesday.
Constant contact among CSTO country leaders
The president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko spoke by telephone to his Russian and Kazakhstani counterparts, his press service said on Wednesday.
"The president of Belarus held consultations over the situation in Kazakhstan, first with his Russian and then Kazakhstani colleagues," the service said.
Constant contact is maintained among the leaders of all Collective Security Treaty Organization countries, it said.
Russia must react to a call for help from Kazakhstani President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Duma CIS affairs committee chairman Leonid Kalashnikov said.
"Should President Tokayev ask, we must react, especially now that he says that terrorist gangs were seizing control of infrastructure and naturally there will be then an introduction of certain forces," Kalashnikov told Interfax on Wednesday.
He added: "We must [react], that's what the CSTO was created for. The CSTO forces are always ready for resolution of such situations."
Kyrgyzstan is ready to help Kazakhstan over latest events in the latter republic, the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
"Expressing certainty that our neighbor can resolve the current situation on its own and without outside interference, as an ally and strategic partner Kyrgyzstan reaffirms its readiness to provide fraternal Kazakhstan with full support if need be," the ministry said.
The Kyrgyz authorities have watched the latest events in Kazakhstan closely and with alarm, it said.
"Given the strong kinship ties between our two peoples and the alliance between our two states, Kyrgyzstan is sincerely interested in the stable socio-economic development and prosperity of Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstan has always stood by the fraternal Kazakhstan, ready to provide it with any possible support and help, as has always been the case in the history of our bilateral relationship.
"We are certain that the wisdom and vision of the Kazakh leadership and people will prevail, helping to preserve calm and harmony. We are convinced that this is only possible by combining all efforts and maintaining civil dialogue within the law. Now more than ever, it is important to find a mutually acceptable solution and prevent further escalation. Violence, lawlessness and provocations, as well as irresponsible calls for law breaking will not lead to a resolution of daily problems, but will only worsen the situation of ordinary people," the ministry said.