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Kazakhstan government’s resignation fails to quell protests

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(Last Updated On: January 5, 2022)

Protesters stormed public buildings in Kazakhstan‘s biggest city on Wednesday as security forces struggled to impose control after the government resigned in response to popular anger over a fuel price increase.

An Instagram live stream by a Kazakh blogger showed a fire blazing in the mayor’s office in the city of Almaty, with gunshots audible nearby. Videos posted online also showed the nearby prosecutor’s office burning.

Protesters appeared to have broken through security forces’ cordons even though the latter deployed stun grenades whose explosions could be heard throughout the city center.

Kazakhstan is a tightly controlled former Soviet republic that cultivates an image of political stability, helping it attract hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign investment in its oil and metals industries.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev accepted the government’s resignation on Wednesday, a day after police used tear gas and stun grenades to drive hundreds of protesters out of the main square in Almaty.

On Wednesday a Reuters correspondent saw thousands of protesters pressing ahead towards Almaty city center, some of them on a large truck, after security forces failed to disperse them with tear gas and flashbang grenades.

Atameken, Kazakhstan‘s business lobby group, said its members were reporting cases of attacks on banks, stores, and restaurants.

The city health department said 190 people had sought medical help, including 137 police. City authorities urged residents to stay home.

The interior ministry said that government buildings were also attacked in the southern cities of Shymkent and Taraz overnight, with 95 police wounded in clashes. Police have detained more than 200 people.

A video posted online showed police using a water cannon and stun grenades against protesters in front of the mayor’s office in Aktobe, the capital of another western province

The protests began after the government lifted price controls on liquefied petroleum gas at the start of the year. Many Kazakhs have converted their cars to run on LPG because of its low cost.

The government said the regulated price was causing losses for producers and needed to be liberalized. The president said it had botched the move.

Speaking to acting cabinet members, Tokayev ordered them and provincial governors to reinstate price controls on LPG, and broaden them to gasoline, diesel, and other “socially important” consumer goods.

He also ordered the government to develop a personal bankruptcy law and consider freezing utility prices and subsidizing rent payments for poor families.

He said the situation was improving in protest-hit cities and towns, including Almaty and the surrounding province, where the authorities declared a state of emergency.

In addition to replacing the prime minister, Tokayev also appointed a new first deputy head of the National Security Committee who replaced Samat Abish, a nephew of powerful ex-president Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Nazarbayev, 81, a Soviet-era Communist Party boss, ran Kazakhstan for almost 30 years before resigning abruptly in 2019 and backing Tokayev as successor. Nazarbayev retains sweeping powers as the chairman of the security council; he has not convened the council or commented on this week’s violence.

The protests began in the oil-producing western province of Mangistau on Sunday, after LPG prices more than doubled following the lifting of caps.

A source familiar with the situation said some workers at Mangistaumunaigas, a Kazakh-Chinese oil-producing joint venture based in the Mangistau province, were on strike, although this was not affecting output so far.

Tokayev declared the emergency in Almaty and Mangistau and has said that domestic and foreign provocateurs were behind the violence.

Almaty mayor Bakytzhan Sagintayev said the situation in the city was under control and security forces were detaining “provocateurs and extremists”.

Kazakhstan‘s dollar-denominated sovereign bonds suffered sharp falls with the 2045 issue falling around 3 cents in the dollar and many dropping to levels last seen in 2020, Tradeweb data showed.

Like many emerging and developing economies, Kazakhstan has grappled with rising price pressures in recent years. Inflation was closing in on 9% year-on-year late last year – its highest level in more than five years – forcing the central bank to raise interest rates to 9.75%.

Some analysts said the protests – the most serious in the country in at least a decade – pointed to more deep-rooted issues.

“I think there is an underlying undercurrent of frustrations in Kazakhstan over the lack of democracy,” said Tim Ash, emerging market strategist at BlueBay Asset Management.

“Young, internet-savvy Kazakhs, especially in Almaty, likely want similar freedoms as Ukrainians, Georgians, Moldovans, Kyrgyz, and Armenians, who have also vented their frustrations over the years with authoritarian regimes.”

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Putin says Russia and North Korea will expand bilateral relations

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(Last Updated On: August 15, 2022)

Russian President Vladimir Putin told North Korean leader Kim Jong-un the two countries will “expand the comprehensive and constructive bilateral relations with common efforts,” Pyongyang’s state media reported on Monday.

In a letter to Kim for Korea’s liberation day, Putin said closer ties would be in both countries’ interests, and would help strengthen the security and stability of the Korean peninsula and the Northeastern Asian region, North Korea’s KCNA news agency said.

Kim also sent a letter to Putin saying Russian-North Korean friendship had been forged in World War II with victory over Japan, which had occupied the Korean peninsula, Reuters reported.

The “strategic and tactical co-operation, support and solidarity” between the two countries has since reached a new level is their common efforts to frustrate threats and provocations from hostile military forces, Kim said in the letter. KCNA did not identify the hostile forces, but it has typically used that term to refer to the United States and its allies.

Kim predicted co-operation between Russia and North Korea would grow based on an agreement signed in 2019 when he met with Putin.

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Author Salman Rushdie on ventilator after stabbing in New York

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(Last Updated On: August 13, 2022)

Salman Rushdie, the Indian-born British author of a controversial book titled “The Satanic Verses” was stabbed as he was about to give a lecture in New York on Friday.

Police said Rushdie was stabbed “at least once in the neck, and at least once in the abdomen” after an assailant rushed to the stage and lunged at the 75-year-old writer just as he was being introduced to the audience.

Rushdie was airlifted to hospital where he spent hours in surgery. On Friday evening, Rushdie was on a ventilator and unable to speak.

“The news is not good,” Andrew Wylie, his book agent, wrote in an email to Reuters news agency. “Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”

Police identified the suspect as 24-year-old Hadi Matar from New Jersey.

Stacey Schlosser, who witnessed the attack, told The Associated Press that Rushdie was stabbed six to eight times before the attacker was restrained.

“Nobody knew what to do. Nobody knew how to react. I mean, there were tons of people that rushed the stage,” Schlosser said.

Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses, has been banned in several countries, as many Muslims consider it to be blasphemous.

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Justice Department seeks to unseal search warrants of Trump’s home

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(Last Updated On: August 12, 2022)

US federal agents were looking for documents relating to nuclear weapons when they raided former President Donald Trump’s home in Florida this week, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.

It was not clear if such documents were recovered at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, the Post said. Reuters could not immediately confirm the report, Reuters reported.

The U.S. Justice Department asked a judge on Thursday to make public the warrant that authorized the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, after Trump, a Republican, portrayed it as political retribution.

The request means the public could soon learn more about what investigators were looking for during the unprecedented search of a former president’s home.

The search was part of an investigation into whether Trump illegally removed records from the White House as he left office in January 2021, some of which the Justice Department believes are classified.

Attorney General Merrick Garland, the top law enforcement officer and an appointee of Democratic President Joe Biden, told a news conference that he had personally approved the search. The Justice Department also seeks to make public a redacted receipt of the items seized.

“The department does not take such a decision lightly. Where possible, it is standard practice to seek less intrusive means as an alternative to a search, and to narrowly scope any search that is undertaken,” Garland said.

His decision to publicly confirm the search was highly unusual. U.S. law enforcement officials typically do not discuss ongoing investigations in order to protect people’s rights. In this case, Trump himself announced the search in a Monday night statement.

Garland said the Justice Department made the request to make public the warrant “in light of the former president’s public confirmation of the search, the surrounding circumstances and the substantial public interest in this matter.”

A source familiar with the matter said the FBI retrieved about 10 boxes from Trump’s property during the search.

Trump was not in Florida at the time of the search.

Late on Thursday, Trump called for the immediate release of documents related to the search.

“Not only will I not oppose the release of documents related to the unAmerican, unwarranted, and unnecessary raid and break-in of my home in Palm Beach, Florida, Mar-a-Lago, I am going a step further by ENCOURAGING the immediate release of those documents, even though they have been drawn up by radical left Democrats and possible future political opponents, who have a strong and powerful vested interest in attacking me, much as they have done for the last 6 years,” he said on his Truth Social platform.

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