Numerous flights were canceled after protesters occupied the airport last Thursday (06JAN22). Since then, the Kazakh military, supported by Russian troops, has regained control after shooting more than a dozen occupiers. Yet, social media report ongoing gun battles in the city and other parts of Kazakhstan. Since the regime cut off the internet, it is difficult to obtain accurate information about the current situation.
Under normal circumstances, Air Astana flies four times a week from Frankfurt to the Kazakh capital, Nur Sultan (formerly Astana). Last Thursday's flight was canceled, and it remains to be seen
whether international air traffic to and from Kazakhstan will return to normal as of this Monday. Due to the ongoing clash between official forces and protesters opposing the authoritarian
regime, all commuting flights between Nur Sultan and Almaty remained on the ground last week.
Growing antagonism and inequality
The riots were triggered by massive increases in gas prices (liquid natural gas to power cars). However, that was just the famous straw that broke the camel's back. Anger against a corrupt elite that personally enriches itself from the country's wealth of natural resources, has been fermenting for some time. Critics speak of a secluded life of luxury for the political caste, gas and raw materials barons, while the majority of the 19 million Kazakhs live in relative poverty.
The gas price hike has since been reverted, but the riots forced the government to resign. Except for President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who remains in office, supported and guarded by paratroopers of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO): a pact comprising Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Tajikistan, which was established following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The others are always to blame
Meanwhile, Mr. Tokayev has ordered the military and police forces to liquidate all insurgents. A “patriotic act” to get rid of “foreign bandits, terrorists, and subversive elements.”
This is reminiscent of well-rehearsed patterns of dictatorships. The Belarusian long-term ruler, Alexander Lukashenko used a similar vocabulary to discriminate his compatriots, who protested en masse against his electoral fraud in 2020, and who he eventually had bludgeoned. Similarly with former Ukrainian President and Putin friend, Victor Yanukovich who lost office in 2014 when his people demonstrated against his rule in a peaceful revolution. After fleeing to Russia, he spoke of the “rats and riffraff” who were to blame for his electoral defeat and the Maidan protests against him.
The list could go on and on, including Iran, Venezuela, or Myanmar, for instance. Their rulers always blame “foreign troublemakers and terrorists” for any unrest. Yet it is mostly they, see Kazakhstan, who are leading their country to the abyss through misguided policies.
Concerns about the transport sector mount
As to the clash in resource-rich Kazakhstan: Political observers do not expect the protests to end quickly because many locals possess arms which they might use should suppression mount.
If so, the transport sector might also be hit. Besides air traffic, foreigners are currently not allowed to enter Kazakhstan, cargo trains could also be affected. This applies in particular to the southern route of the trans-Eurasian rail link connecting China and Europe, which runs across Kazakhstan. However, serious forecasts about this are currently impossible due to the prevailing information blackout and the shutdown of the internet by the Kazakh regime.
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