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Kazakhstan: Turkey’s Erdogan expresses solidarity with leadership as protests continue

Erdogan offers Kazakhstan 'all forms of technical information and experience' to deal with widespread unrest
Protesters take part in a rally over a hike in energy prices in Almaty on 5 January 2022 (AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday spoke with leaders of Turkic countries to express solidarity with Kazakhstan amidst an uprising in the former Soviet state. 

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As the term president of the Organisation of Turkic States, Erdogan held separate phone conversations with leaders of the member countries over the protests sweeping Kazakhstan, his office said.

In a statement, the Turkish presidency said Erdogan told his Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Jomart Tokayev that Turkey was closely monitoring developments and he hoped tensions would ease, while also offering "all forms of technical information and experience" if needed.

Erdogan also discussed the developments with the leaders of Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, and emphasised that the stability and security of Kazakhstan is important for the entire region, especially its neighbours, adding that he believed the crisis would be resolved through dialogue.

Unrest in Kazakhstan began over the weekend as people in the west of the country took to the streets to protest against rising fuel costs. However, the protests quickly spread across the whole country and turned into deadly demonstrations against corruption and poverty. 

Security forces in Kazakhstan say they have killed dozens of anti-government rioters in an operation to restore order in Almaty, the country's largest city, with the president vowing to crackdown on the "terrorists" behind the unrest.

Twelve security officers have also been killed and 353 wounded during the ongoing unrest, state media reports said on Thursday.

When he came to power in 2019, Tokayev promised reforms, but the country has seen little change since and remains staunchly authoritarian, with former founding president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who ruled the country with an iron fist from 1989, still seen as in charge behind the scenes.

Discontent had been bubbling beneath the surface, protesters told AFP, and much of the anger appeared to be directed at Nazarbayev. In recent days, chants of "Old Man Out!" - in reference to the 81-year-old former president - echoed across Almaty.

Critics see Nazarbayev as having fostered rampant corruption, enriching himself and his family, who boast lavish residences abroad.

Tokayev appealed overnight to the Russia-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), and within hours the alliance said the first troops had been sent, including Russian paratroopers and military units from other CSTO members.