Statues debunked, official buildings set on fire, exchanges of fire: anger turned to riot in Kazakhstan the first week of January. Amateur images, verified and geotagged by The world, allow us to trace the events which saw several Kazakh cities set ablaze.
1is January, in Janaozen
In a video shot in front of theakimat, seat of the public administration, in Janaozen, a group of about fifty men recites a short text in front of the camera. This is the first video of Kazakhs publicly opposing the increase in fuel prices decreed on 1is January.
The same day, the removal of the ceiling on the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) resulted in the almost doubling of the price of this energy, used for 70% to 90% of the country’s vehicles, according to Washington Post.
The next day, January 2, demonstrators gathered in the same town and slowed down traffic on a roundabout located just next to the Akimat. The regroupings are growing over the weekend.
In the evening, the situation changes, 150 km further west, in the city of Aktaou, regional capital.
Night from January 2 to 3, in Aktaou
Several hundred demonstrators are filmed at nightfall, in front of the Akimat of the Mangistaou region, in Aktaou, on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Later that evening, around 11 p.m., the crowd chants « Shal, ket ! » (“Outside, the old man”), directly targeting the former leader, Nursultan Nazarbaïev, 81, who remained in power for twenty-nine years. Despite a sham of political transition, in 2019, the former autocrat and his clan today retain control over part of the country’s wealth.
Videos show that the protesters remain stationed in front of the Akimat until late at night.
Until this moment, the images collected by The world do not show any violent action on the part of the demonstrators: they sing, hold sit-ins, slow down traffic or announce a strike.
The situation changes the next day, when the mobilization reaches other cities in the country.
From the morning of January 4, the situation became tense in several localities. The videos that we have authenticated bear witness to demonstrations in front of the Akimat of Aktioubé, Atyraou and Kyzylorda.
In Kyzylorda, videos show a few dozen demonstrators hitting local officials. Discussions become tense when protesters are forced into law enforcement vans.
In Atyraou, in the central square, the police seem overwhelmed by the aggressiveness of several demonstrators, who come to the fists.
In Aktaou, at the end of the day, several witnesses filmed trucks and buses loaded with soldiers, heading for the airport.
At the same time, it is in Almaty, the economic capital and the most populous city of the country, that the demonstrations turn to riot. Hundreds of demonstrators violently attack the police and throw pieces of street furniture at armored vehicles. They all head towards the city’s central square.
January 5, in Almaty
On the morning of January 5, the first images of civilian victims were posted online. A video broadcast by the opposition media Base, whose founders live in exile, shows a man lying on the ground. A protester tries to take her pulse. “Look at his body, he’s dead”another responds. During the day, several other images show corpses in the middle of the streets, in pools of blood.
Images are also circulating on the side of the police, testifying to the violence of some demonstrators. A policeman films his shield pierced right through. Another video shows civilians massing in front of a car trunk full of guns.
Many buildings, including official buildings, were set on fire.
The same day, in Aktioubé, the police pushed back the demonstrators with stun grenades. In Taldykorgan, a town of 500,000 inhabitants, in the east of the country, protesters shoot down a statue of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the former autocrat.
After having reported, Thursday, January 6, of “Tens” deaths among demonstrators designated as “Terrorists [qui] hide behind women and children ”, the Kazakh interior ministry appeared to be backtracking by advancing on Friday the figures of 26 “Armed criminals” killed and 18 injured. The day before, the ministry of health evoked a thousand wounded. Eighteen police officers were also said to have been killed, according to the authorities, who have not released their names.
Called to the rescue by the Kazakh president, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the military alliance that unites Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, was immediately deployed. In the first row of the troops engaged: 3,000 Russian soldiers.
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In Kazakhstan, what the images show of the riots and their repression