Kazakhstan declares state of emergency in several cities as ongoing fuel price


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Kazakhstan declared emergencies in the capital, main city and provinces on Wednesday after demonstrators stormed and torched public buildings, the worst unrest for more than a decade in a tightly controlled country that promotes an image of stability.

The cabinet resigned but that failed to quell the anger of the demonstrators, who have taken to the streets in response to a fuel price increase from the start of the new year.

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

Earlier on Wednesday, Reuters journalists saw thousands of protesters pressing toward Almaty city centre, some of them on a large truck. Security forces, in helmets and riot shields, fired tear gas and flash-bang grenades.

The city’s police chief said Almaty was under attack by “extremists and radicals,” who had beaten up 500 civilians and ransacked hundreds of businesses.

This image grab from video shows protesters near an administrative building during a rally over a hike in energy prices in Almaty. Protesters stormed the mayor’s office in Kazakhstan’s largest city. (AFP/Getty Images)

A presidential decree announced a two-week state of emergency and nighttime curfew in the capital Nur-Sultan, citing “a serious and direct security threat to citizens.” States of emergency were also declared in Almaty and in western Mangistau province, where the protests first emerged in recent days.

Authorities appeared to have shut the country off the internet as the unrest spread. Netblocks, a site that monitors global internet connectivity, said the country was “in the midst of a nation-scale internet blackout.”

Government resigns

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev accepted the government’s resignation on Wednesday following the protests, which have spread from the provinces to main cities since price caps on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) were lifted on New Year’s Day.

Speaking to the acting cabinet, Tokayev ordered the price hikes reversed and new caps placed on the cost of other fuels.

The government said the regulated price was causing losses for producers and needed to be liberalized, but Tokayev acknowledged the move had been botched.

Kazakh law enforcement officers formed a wall in Almaty to prevent protesters from advancing. (Pavel Mikheyev/Reuters)

The unrest is the biggest test yet of Tokayev, 68, who took power in 2019 as hand-picked successor to Nursultan Nazarbayev, a former Communist Party boss who had become the longest-serving ruler in the former Soviet Union by the time he stepped down. Nazarbayev, 81, still retains substantial authority as head of the ruling party and chairman of the security council.

Kazakhstan’s reputation for political stability under three decades of one-man rule by former leader Nazarbayev helped it attract hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign investment in its oil…

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