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Protests erupt in Kazakhstan after fuel price rise

Protests have erupted in several Kazakh towns and cities after the Central Asian nation’s government lifted price caps on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and the cost of the popular alternative to gasoline rose.

Public protests are rare – and illegal unless their organizers file a notice in advance – in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic whose parliament is devoid of opposition.

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The rallies have involved thousands of people. They began on January 2 – the day after the price caps on LPG were lifted – in the town of Zhanaozen, the site of the deadliest clashes between protesters and police since independence from the Soviet Union.

Protesters in Zhanaozen, an oil industry hub in the western Mangistau province where dozens of people were killed in protests in 2011 after the sacking of oil workers, demanded the price of LPG be halved from 120 tenge ($0.27) per liter to the level at which the fuel was sold last year.

Retailers have agreed to cut the price by a quarter, but President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s government has said further cuts are impossible because of production costs.

The price had previously been regulated, but officials said artificially low prices were making LPG production infeasible.

Protests have spread to Mangistau’s provincial center, Aktau, as well as a worker camp used by subcontractors of Kazakhstan’s biggest oil producer, Tengizchevroil. The Chevron-led venture said output had not been affected.

In Kazakhstan’s biggest city, Almaty, police cordoned off the main square on Monday and Tuesday. Mobile internet was jammed in the downtown area.

Tokayev said on Twitter on Tuesday that a government commission has started working in Aktau and would find a solution “in the interest of stability in our country.” He urged protesters to behave responsibly.

Read more: Gas flows eastward via Russian Yamal pipeline jump

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Ukrainian court sentences Russian soldier to life in prison for killing civilian

A Ukrainian court sentenced a Russian soldier to life in prison on Monday for killing an unarmed civilian in the first war crimes trial arising from Russia’s February 24 invasion.

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Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old tank commander, had pleaded guilty to killing the 62-year-old man in the northeastern Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka on February 28 after being ordered to shoot at him from a car.

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Saudia airline announces commercial flights to Saudi megacity project NEOM

Saudia airline has announced that it will launch weekly flights from NEOM Bay Airport to Dubai in late June, and plans a direct route to London.

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The airport represents a “vital artery” for visitors traveling to the planned city, NEOM CEO Nazmi al-Nasr said in a statement.

NEOM is situated in the northwestern corner of the Kingdom, around 1,500 kilometers from Riyadh.

Saudia operated its first-ever flights from capital Riyadh to the NEOM site in January of 2019.

The under-construction megacity currently employs 1,500 people including local and international experts from more than 65 countries.

The project was announced in 2017 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as part of his Vision 2030 plan to diversify the economy away from oil.

It is part of a raft of developments in the Kingdom including the Red Sea Project, which is due to welcome its first tourists in 2023.

The project is intended to boost tourism both domestically and internationally, as well as real estate sales.

In January 2021 the Crown Prince announced that a 170 kilometer long belt of communities would be built in NEOM.

‘The Line,’ as it will be known, is slated to be a zero-carbon system with no roads or cars.

Commuters are instead expected to use high-speed transit systems, which reportedly will take no more than 20 minutes to ferry people from one end of the city to the other.

Promotional material for NEOM also touts it as a low-carbon sustainable city, the layout of which emphasizes physical exercise.

The project’s sports director Neil Coupland said in an interview with Al Arabiya English that those behind the project intend it to be the “most active place on the planet,” with three-quarters of the population exercising at least three hours a week.

Out of the planned megaprojects in the Kingdom, NEOM was the most popular choice for homebuyers, according to a Knight Frank survey of 1003 households and 55 high net worth individuals.

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Abdulrahman makes return to UAE squad for World Cup playoff

Former Asian player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman has been recalled to the United Arab Emirates national team for the first time in two-and-a-half years as the country prepares for their World Cup playoff against Australia next month.

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Abdulrahman, who was named the continent’s best player in 2016, was included in coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s 30-man squad for the game against the Socceroos on June 7 in Doha after a return to form for club side Shabab al-Ahli.

The 30-year-old lost his place in the national team as a string of injuries, including a cruciate ligament rupture in 2018 while on loan with Saudi Arabia’s al-Hilal, took their toll on the creative midfielder.

He last played for the UAE in the 1-0 loss in World Cup qualifying to Vietnam in November 2019 but has impressed in recent months, including leading Shabab al-Ahli into the knockout rounds of this year’s Asian Champions League.

“I am 100 per cent ready because (reaching the World Cup) is everybody’s dream, it is the dream of UAE,” Abdulrahman said last month when asked about a possible recall.

“I hope everyone stands together, not only the players, the technical staff and the administration team, but also the media, fans, and everyone during this time — because the two remaining matches can lead us to the World Cup finals.

“Of course, the first play-off against Australia will be difficult for sure, but with solidarity, we will be able to make the UAE fans happy.”

The UAE will be looking to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since making their debut appearance at the tournament in Italy in 1990.

Arruabarrena’s side will take on the Australians after the nations finished third in their respective groups in the third round of Asia’s preliminaries.

The winner of the meeting at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium will advance to an intercontinental playoff on June 13 against Peru with a place in November’s finals at stake.

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