Kazakhstan has declared an emergency even as protest continue against the hike in fuel prices. The two-week emergency was declared by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who had earlier accepted the resignation of the Askar Mamin-led government.
Protests first began on January 2 in Zhanaozen in the Mangystau region over a near doubling of Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) prices in the country over the past year, and then spread to Almaty the largest city and an important commercial center. On Wednesday, protesters set the residence of the President ablaze. They also burnt down the mayor’s office in Almaty and took over the airport. President Tokayev has now promised a “tough response” to the escalation in violence.
The Ministry of Foreign Affair released a statement saying, “Initially, the demonstrations began in the Mangystau region, whose residents demanded reduction in the retail prices for liquefied gas. In response to this, on behalf of the Head of State, the Government promptly took measures to reduce the prices and introduced a moratorium on price increases for socially significant food products, fuel, and utilities.” The country has now sought assistance from allies, most notably Russia. “In light of the sharp aggravation of the situation, President Tokayev assumed the role of Chairman of the Security Council of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and requested the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to provide military assistance in the conduct of the counter-terrorist operation,” said the MFA.
Internet services were disrupted in wake of the large-scale protests, but were being restored gradually at the time of going to press. Alikhan Smailov has been named acting Prime Minister and government officials will continue to serve until a new cabinet is formed.
Kazakhstan, is the ninth largest country in the world and shares international borders with both Russia and China. An oil rich country, Kazakhstan once had a thriving economy, but has been plagued with rampant corruption.
*Feature image: Demonstrators march on the central square of Aktobe on January 4, 2022. Picture by Esetok via Wikimedia Commons.