22-Year-Old Israeli Killed in Violent Kazakhstan Protest

On Friday evening, a 22-year-old Israeli was shot dead in the city of Almaty in Kazakhstan, during violent protests. A statement on Saturday from the Foreign Ministry said that Levan Kogeashvili had been living in the Central Asian country for a number of years. Expressing its condolences, the ministry said that it had liaised with Kogeashvili’s parents, who were in Kazakhstan, and were making arrangements for transferring the body of the young man to Israel for burial. The statement also mentioned that a travel warning had been issued for Kazakhstan since Thursday. As per the warning, Israelis should avoid any non-essential travel to Kazakhstan and steer clear of the potential hotspots in the country.

According to the media, Kogeashvili’s family had disclosed that he had been shot while he was traveling in a car and also added that the young man had no involvement with the protests. Residing in Ashdod, a family friend Rostislav Edelstein, said that he had been traveling in the car and was shot with two bullets suddenly. He said that Kogeashvili had been taken to the hospital, where they tried to save him, but weren’t able to do anything. There were two other people with him who were lightly wounded. 

This week, the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan has experienced the worst street protests after it became independent some three decades ago from the Soviet Union. The tumult saw dozens of people losing their lives. The demonstrations had started because of a type of vehicle fuel’s price almost doubling and had spread quickly all over the country, which reflects the wider discontent of the people with the authoritarian rule. On Friday, security forces in Kazakhstan were authorized by the president to shoot to kill people participating in the protest. This opened the door for an escalation in a crackdown on the protests against the government, as they have turned violent.

Harsh rhetoric was used by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in a televised address and he used the terms ‘militants’, ‘bandits’, and ‘terrorists’ to refer to those who were involved in the turmoil. However, it remained unclear as to how the peaceful protests had gathered steam at first and eventually descended into violence. So far, there aren’t any leaders in the protests. Tokayev said that he had given law enforcement the authority to shoot to kill and they would eliminate those who refuse to surrender. In recent days, there had been concerns that the crackdown would also get severe, as cellphone and internet service had been disrupted and even completely blocked. 

Likewise, a number of airports had closed down and this had made it difficult to find out what was happening in the country. The fears were heightened because of the request of Kazakhstan’s president for help from the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a military alliance led by Russia, whose troops had started arriving from Thursday. The Interior Ministry in Kazakhstan had reported on Friday that 26 protestors had been killed in the unrest that had sharply escalated on Wednesday. An additional 26 protestors had been wounded and detainees were around 3,800. 

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