Friday, January 28

International. Demonstrations in Kazakhstan: President sacks government and declares state of emergency

In Almaty, the economic capital of Kazakhstan, police on Tuesday used stun grenades and tear gas to disperse a demonstration against rising gas prices that had brought together several thousand people.

In the process, President Tokayev declared a state of emergency in Almaty and in the province of Mangystau from January 5 and until January 19, where a curfew will be established from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., and dismissed his government.

A decree published on the presidential website indicates that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has accepted the resignation of the government headed by Prime Minister Askar Mamin. Deputy Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov will assume the role of Acting Prime Minister until a new cabinet is formed.

The head of state had previously called for an end to the protests in a video posted online. “Do not respond to provocations from abroad and from within the country. Do not respond to calls to storm official buildings. It is a crime for which you would be punished, ”said the 81-year-old head of state, who has ruled the country since 1989.

This demonstration, in an authoritarian country where this type of gathering is rare, follows a movement of anger that has erupted in several cities since Sunday. Two AFP journalists, who saw police fire on Tuesday to disperse the crowd in Almaty, counted at least 5,000 participants in this demonstration. The popular Whatsapp, Telegram and Signal messengers were inaccessible overnight.

Protesters were seen attacking vehicles, including a fire engine. Several protesters and riot police were hospitalized with what appeared to be minor injuries.

Rising gas prices

The anger began on Sunday, after a rise in the prices of liquefied natural gas (LNG), in the city of Janaozen, in the west of the country rich in natural resources, before spreading to the large regional city of ‘Aktau, on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

On Tuesday evening, the authorities tried to calm the situation by conceding a reduction in the price of LNG, fixing it at 50 tenges (0.1 euro) per liter in the region, against 120 at the start of the year. Justifying this regional concession, President Tokayev assured on Twitter that it was “to ensure stability in the country”. However, this promise did not lead to the dispersal of the demonstrators, who demanded to speak to the president. Local media showed images of thousands of them surrounded by police.

The city of Janaozen was in the past the scene of the deadliest unrest to have shaken Kazakhstan since its independence from the USSR in 1991. In 2011, at least 14 workers at an oil site were killed when the police cracked down a demonstration against working conditions and wages. The Mangystau region, where the city of Janaozen is located, depends on LNG as the main source of fuel for cars and any rise in its price leads to that of food products, already on the rise since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

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