Shocking footage has shown dozens of corpses lined up in a morgue after Kazakhstan forces slaughtered protesters amid on-going riots over fuel prices, in the latest spell of unrest in a former Soviet republic.
Video from the mortuary came after after an angry mob tore down a statue of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, and as Russian President Vladimir Putin sent in troops to help Kazakh forces quell the unrest.
The Kremlin will fear that the protests in Kazakhstan are the latest signal that citizens who have spent decades living under autocracies in the shadow of the former Soviet Union are reaching their breaking point.
The corpses in a mortuary in Almaty – the country’s largest city – indicate the scale of the carnage in the ex-Soviet republic where the violence is continuing unabated.
Officials have said more than 1,000 people had been wounded so far in clashes, with nearly 400 hospitalised and 62 in intensive care. The number of protesters killed has not been revealed.
Media reports on Thursday said 12 security officers have been killed and 353 wounded. Kazakhstan’s Khabar 24 news channel reported the toll as of midday, saying that the body of one of the dead security officers was found with its head cut off, Russian news agencies Interfax and RIA Novosti reported.
The video from the morgue shows dozens of bodies but it is unclear where or exactly when they were slain.
Commentary on the macabre footage said: ‘The corpses, the bodies of the protesters. Different ages, young people. These are all protesters – adult, young. Very young.’
The video was filmed before a new round of shooting in the city’s main square early Thursday as Kazakh troops sought to crush the widening revolt which was triggered by a hike in gas prices.
Separate footage on Wednesday night showed protesters pulling down a statue of Nursultan Nazarbayev – the self-styled ‘Father of the Nation’ and ally of Vladimir Putin.
In a blow to the Kremlin, Nazarbayev, 81, yesterday gave up his final role in overall charge of security in the country. Rumours suggest he may have fled to China or Russia, with The Daily Telegraph reporting Russian military planes landed in Kazakhstan to rescue him so he could seek ‘urgent medical treatment.’
‘It is absolutely not in Putin’s interest to have this blow up in his backyard when he’s in the middle of a showdown with Nato,’ Eugene Rumer – an author and former national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the U.S. National Intelligence Council, told the Financial Times.
Russia and other ex-Soviet states have started to answer a call by the current Kazakh president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev for military reinforcements to quell the protests.
Russian paratroopers are on the ground in Kazakhstan in the role of ‘peacekeepers’ from the Collective Security Treaty Organisation which comprises a number of ex-Soviet states.
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Pictured: A still from a deeply shocking video has shown the bodies of dozens of protesters slaughtered in the bloody unrest in Kazakhstan. The corpses in a mortuary in Almaty – the country’s largest city – indicate the scale of the carnage in the ex-Soviet republic where the violence is continuing unabated
Footage on Wednesday night showed protesters pulling down a statue of Nursultan Nazarbayev – the self-styled ‘Father of the Nation’ and ally of Vladimir Putin.
Pictured: A statue of Nursultan Nazarbayev – the self-styled ‘Father of the Nation’ – is pulled down. Nazarbayev, 81, yesterday gave up his final role in overall charge of security in the country. Rumours suggest he may have fled to China or Russia
Pictured: Security forces are deployed against protesters o stop mass unrest in Kazakhstan. Officials have said more than 1,000 people had been wounded so far in the unrest, with nearly 400 hospitalised and 62 in intensive care. The number of fatalities has not been revealed
Protesters take part in a rally over a hike in energy prices in Almaty on January 5, 2022
Overnight police spokesman Saltanat Azirbek admitted the slaughter of ‘dozens’ of protesters.
‘Extremist forces attempted to storm the administrative buildings, the police department of the city of Almaty as well as district directorates and police departments,’ she said.
‘Dozens of attackers were eliminated, their identities are being established.’
The Kazakh authorities have portrayed the protesters as ‘terrorists’ and said an operation somewhat ironically named ‘For the Sake of Peace’ was underway to counter them.
Intense shooting was underway in the main square of Almaty.
‘Troops arrived at the square, and started the mop-up of trouble-makers. The intensive firing is underway,’ said a report from the scene by TASS news agency. ‘In relation to this, we are urging residents and the city’s guests to refrain from leaving houses for the sake of their own safety,’ she added.
Videos also show widespread looting in the city with seven hypermarkets totally empty of goods in the country’s worst-ever mass unrest.
At least one gun shop was also looted and weapons were stolen when rampaging protesters overran the Almaty branch of the National Security Committee, the state secret service, equivalent of the Russian FSB.
The authorities – struggling to keep control of the energy-rich country amid the unprecedented protests – have not given a death toll for demonstrators, while stressing that a number of police have died.
Protests spread across the nation of 19 million this week in outrage over a New Year increase in prices for liquid petroleum gas (LPG), 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.
Protesters were reported to have stormed several government buildings on Wednesday, including the Almaty mayor’s office and the presidential residence.
Pictured: An outside view of the burning mayor’s office which was set on fire during unrest in Almaty on January 6. Protesters were reported to have stormed several government buildings on Wednesday, including the Almaty mayor’s office
Last night a statue of Nursultan Nazarbayev (pictured) was toppled by an angry mob after Nazarbayev, 81, yesterday gave up his final role in overall charge of security. Rumours suggest he may have fled to China or Russia
Pictured: Russian airborne troop units depart aboard Russian Aerospace Forces aircraft to join the Collective Security Treaty Organisation’s peacekeeping force in Kazakhstan
Videos showed widespread looting in the city with seven hypermarkets totally empty of goods in the country’s worst-ever mass unrest. Pictured: A Christmas tree in a looted shop on January 6
As of late Wednesday, at least eight law enforcement officers had been killed and 317 wounded in the violence, according to the interior ministry quoted by local media.
The full picture of the chaos was unclear, with widespread disruptions to communications including mobile phone signals, the blocking of online messengers and hours-long internet shutdowns.
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 hand-picked president Tokayev as his successor.
Tokayev tried to head off further unrest by announcing the resignation of the government headed by Prime Minister Askar Mamin early on Wednesday, but protests continued.
Last night a statue of Nursultan Nazarbayev was toppled by an angry mob after Nazarbayev, 81, yesterday gave up his final role in overall charge of security. Rumours suggest he may have fled to China or Russia.
Tokayev also announced he was taking over from Nazarbayev as head of the powerful security council, a surprise move given the ex-president’s continued influence.
Protesters are seen as they enter the governor’s office as protests continue across Kazakhstan against fuel price increase, in Almaty, Kazakhstan on January 5 2022
Pictured: Security forces carry out an operation to quell protesters in Kazakhstan. Media reports on Thursday said twelve security officers have been killed and 353 wounded
Pictured: Trucks belonging to Kazakh security forces are shown in Almaty as troops work to quell the on-going protests
Kazakhstan’s Khabar 24 news channel reported the toll as of midday, saying that the body of one of the dead security officers was found with its head cut off, Russian news agencies Interfax and RIA Novosti reported
With protests escalating, 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.
Much of the anger appeared directed at Nazarbayev, who is 81 and had ruled Kazakhstan since 1989 before handing power to Tokayev.
But the protests appear to have no identifiable leader or demands.
Many protesters shouted ‘Old Man Out!’ in reference to Nazarbayev and images posted on social media showed a statue of the ex-president being torn down.
The EU and the UN called for ‘restraint’ on all sides, while Washington urged authorities to allow protesters to ‘express themselves peacefully.’
Kazakhstan’s government tolerates little real opposition and has been accused of silencing independent voices.
Spontaneous, unsanctioned protests are illegal despite a 2020 law that eased some restrictions on freedom of assembly.
Meanwhile, a Moscow-led military alliance dispatched troops to help quell mounting unrest in Kazakhstan on Thursday as police said dozens were killed trying to storm government buildings.
Pictured: Riot police guard the Ak Orda Presidential Palace against protesters on January 5
A burnt car is seen by the mayors office on fire. Protests are spreading across Kazakhstan over the rising fuel prices; protesters broke into the Almaty mayors office and set it on fire
A man rallies outside the burning mayors office. Protests are spreading across Kazakhstan over the rising fuel prices; protesters broke into the Almaty mayors office and set it on fire
Riot police officers block a street during the protests in Almaty, Kazakhstan,January 5
Long seen as one the most stable of the ex-Soviet republics of Central Asia, energy-rich Kazakhstan is facing its biggest crisis in decades after days of protests over rising fuel prices escalated into widespread unrest.
Under increasing pressure, President Tokayev appealed to the Russia-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), which includes five other ex-Soviet states, to combat what he called ‘terrorist groups’ that had ‘received extensive training abroad’.
Within hours the alliance said the first troops had been sent, including Russian paratroopers and military units from the other CSTO members.
‘Peacekeeping forces… were sent to the Republic of Kazakhstan for a limited time to stabilise and normalise the situation,’ the CSTO said in a statement, without specifying the number of troops involved.
The CSTO’s current chairman, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, earlier announced the alliance would agree to the request, saying Kazakhstan was facing ‘outside interference’.
One report said Russia had ten Il-76s and three An-124s involved in a massive military operation to quell the disturbances.
Some planes with Russian forces are already in Kazakhstan, where one in five of the population are ethnic Russian.
A spokesman for Magnum, the largest Kazakh hypermarket and supermarket chain, Dmitry Shishkin, said that by 4 am some seven outlets were completely looted.
Another seven were partially looted.
The TSUM department store had been totally looted along with many smaller shops.
Videos show the mass looting, which included banks and thefts from cash machines.
Looters even used a tractor to smash into one bank branch.
A mob also took over weapons store Korgan, making away with guns and ammunition.
The country’s largest airport in Almaty was overrun by a mob which also seized five planes and looted the terminal.
Beleaguered Kazakh president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev – who has fired his Cabinet and security officials in a bid to remain in charge – told Khabar-24 TV channel: ‘Terrorist gangs are seizing large infrastructural facilities.
‘In particular, in Almaty they have seized the airport, five planes, including foreign planes. Almaty has been subjected to an assault, destruction and vandalism.
‘Almaty residents have fallen victim to the attack by terrorists and bandits.’
All banks remained closed today across Kazakhstan, the world’s ninth largest country in size, due to the state of emergency.
The violence follows a doubling of prices for gas.
The country has seen pent up resentment over low wages and poverty and the enrichment of a narrow elite controlling the government and Kazakhstan’s oil and gas reserves.
Kazakhstan, the ninth largest country in the world, borders Russia to the north and China to the east and has extensive oil reserves that make it strategically and economically important. Despite those reserves and mineral wealth, discontent over poor living conditions is strong in some parts of the country.