Clashes in largest Kazakh city, Moscow-led troops arrive
- Fighting in Almaty continued a day after protesters stormed several government buildings, with an AFP correspondent hearing regular eruptions of gunfire from the direction of a central square.
Bursts of gunfire echoed through the streets of Kazakhstan's largest city on Thursday as Moscow-led troops arrived to help quell mass unrest that left dozens dead and hundreds detained.
Fighting in Almaty continued a day after protesters stormed several government buildings, with an AFP correspondent hearing regular eruptions of gunfire from the direction of a central square.
Local media reports said security forces had cleared demonstrators from the square and other key government buildings, but there were also reports of gunfire elsewhere in the city.
The first units of Russian forces from a Moscow-led peacekeeping force had meanwhile arrived in Kazakhstan, the Russian defence ministry said, after the Kazakh government appealed for help.
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.
Armed protesters have fought running battles with government forces, with officials saying 748 security officers have been wounded and 18 killed, including two who had their heads cut off.
Burnt-out vehicles littered Almaty's streets, several government buildings were in ruins and bullet casings were strewn over the grounds of the presidential residence, which was stormed and looted by protesters on Wednesday.
"I didn't know our people could be so terrifying," Samal, a 29-year-old nursery-school teacher, told AFP near the residence.
Under increasing pressure, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev appealed overnight 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 -- in its first major joint action since its founding in 1999.
"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 Russian foreign ministry said it saw the unrest as "an attempt inspired from outside to undermine the security and integrity" of Kazakhstan.
In the worst reported violence so far, police said dozens of people were "eliminated" in overnight battles with security forces at government buildings in Almaty.
Over 2,000 detained
The interior ministry said police had "moved forward to clear the streets" and detained about 2,300 people so far.
Officials said more than 1,000 people had been wounded in the unrest, with nearly 400 admitted to hospital and 62 in intensive care.
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.
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 Tokayev as his successor.
Tokayev tried to head off further unrest by announcing the resignation of the cabinet early on Wednesday, but protests continued.
New fuel price limits
As protests escalated, authorities declared a nationwide state of emergency until January 19, with curfews, restrictions on movements and bans on mass gatherings.
The government made another concession on Thursday, setting new fuel price limits for six months, saying "urgent" measures were needed "to stabilise the socio-economic situation".
Much of the anger appeared directed at Nazarbayev, who is 81 and had ruled Kazakhstan since 1989 before handing power to Tokayev.
Many protesters shouted "Old Man Out!" in reference to Nazarbayev and several witnesses confirmed to AFP that a statue of the ex-leader had been torn down in the southern city of Taldykorgan.
Western countries have called for restraint on all sides, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling his Kazakh counterpart to urge a "peaceful, rights-respecting resolution to the crisis".
Kazakhstan, which tolerates little real opposition, is a key ally of Russia but has also sought good ties with the West and China.
A major oil and gas exporter and one of the world's biggest producers of uranium, the country has signed lucrative deals with international energy companies.
Critics say widespread corruption has meant little of that money reaching ordinary people, with average monthly salaries in the country of less than $600 (530 euros).
Though this is the first confirmed case in the United States, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is preparing for the possibility of more monkeypox cases. Here are 10 things to know about monkeypox and the 1st case in the United States in 2022 1. The Massachusetts man travelled to Canada at the end of April to meet friends and returned in early May. This is the first case of monkeypox this year.
North Korea is ramping up the production of drugs and medical supplies to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, which has wreaked havoc. According to the Korean Central News Agency on Thursday, North Korea is also increasing the production of traditional Korean medicines used to reduce fever and pain. In the capital city of Pyongyang and nearby regions, factories are churning out more injections, medicines and thermometers and other medical supplies.
Veteran diplomat Bridget Brink, who was nominated by US President Joe Biden to be the country's next ambassador to war-hit Ukraine, was on Wednesday (local time) given a unanimous approval by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for appointment to the post, which means that she just a step away from being Washington's new representative in the east European nation. She was nominated by Biden on April 25.
Officials in Spain and Portugal announced on Wednesday that they have detected around 32 suspected cases of monkeypox, days after the UK reported new cases that have triggered concerns that there may be an undetected transmission in parts of Europe. Portugal had five confirmed and 20 suspected cases, Spain eight suspected cases and UK seven confirmed infections as on Wednesday.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken on Wednesday met Pakistan's foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at the UN headquarters and their talks focussed on regional security as well as strengthening bilateral economic and commercial ties. Bilawal is on a maiden visit to the US at the invitation of Blinken to attend the ministerial meeting on the “Global Food Security Call to Action” to be held at the United Nations later on Wednesday.