Protests in Kazakhstan against increases in the price of liquefied gas, which had lasted for several days, turned into violent riots. The president announced the government’s resignation. Despite this, demonstrators took control of the airport and stormed the city hall in the country’s capital. Kasym-Żomart Tokayev appealed to the heads of state of the Collective Security Treaty Organization for help. The US condemned the violence in Kazakhstan.
In January, the price of liquefied gas in Kazakhstan increased to 120 tenge (PLN 1.12) per liter. Even at the beginning of last year, it was 38 tenge (35 groszy) per liter. Protests against the increases that fuel many residents’ cars began a few days ago.
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In connection with the riots, the authorities announced a partial restoration of the price limits for liquefied gas (up to a price of 50 tenge, or 46 groszy per liter in the Mangystau Oblast), but this did not calm the public.
Government dismissal in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan’s President Kasym-Żomart Tokayev accepted the resignation of the government on Wednesday. He appointed Alikhan Smailov, the former first deputy prime minister, to the position of the acting prime minister. The office is to remain in office until a new government is formed.
The dismissal of the government was one of the demands of the protesters. Justifying the government’s resignation, the president blamed it for the destabilization of the country’s economic situation. He also ordered the prosecutor general to conduct an investigation into the collusion on prices of gas and fuel distributors.
To stem the tide of protests, Tokayev introduced a state of emergency in the capital and largest city of the country, Almaty, and in the Mangistau oblast, which have become the sites of the largest mass anti-government protests. There is a curfew, citizens must deposit personal weapons.
Fire of the town hall of Almaty
The president’s decisions did not stop the protests. Thousands of people gathered in front of the town hall in Almaty. The crowd broke the cordon of police using tear gas and stun grenades.
A group of protesters stormed the town hall, reported the AFP agency. She added that the protesters took truncheons and shields from the policemen. In a live report of one of the Kazakh bloggers, it was visible that the town hall burst into flames, and you could also hear shots from a firearm, writes Reuters. Local media reported that demonstrators were armed with sticks and metal rails.
Demonstrators take control of the Almaty airport
On the same day, demonstrators took control of the Almaty airport, and all flights to and from this city were temporarily suspended.
TASS reported late in the afternoon that demonstrators in Almaty had also seized the building of the National Security Committee (KNB). Until now, the state of emergency was in force in Almaty, Nur-Sultan and the Mangystau oblast, where the internet was blocked.
Russia is strengthening its military defense of the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan
The military protection of key facilities at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan has been strengthened, the Director General of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, announced on Wednesday.
– The day in Baikonur passed peacefully. Branches of Rosmkosmos companies, law enforcement agencies, municipal services and institutions work normally. The operational staff, created under the Baikonur administration, has full control of the situation. Military protection of key facilities has been strengthened, announced Rogozin.
The president asks for help
– I asked the heads of the ODKB states to help Kazakhstan overcome this terrorist threat. In fact, it is no longer a threat, but an undermining of the integrity of the state, and most importantly: an attack on our citizens, said the President of Kazakhstan, Kasym-Żomart Tokayev at the meeting shown by Khabar-24 television.
According to Tokayev, “terrorist gangs seize large infrastructure facilities in the country,” for example, they intercepted an airport in Almaty and five planes, including foreign ones.
The president said eight policemen and soldiers were killed and 317 injured as a result of the riots. As he reported, fights between “terrorist bands” and an airborne unit of the Ministry of Defense take place near Almaty.
Peacekeepers will be sent to Kazakhstan
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced on Wednesday evening that “peace forces” of the Collective Security Treaty Organization would be sent to Kazakhstan to stabilize the situation in the country.
Pashinyan stressed that the decision to send peacekeeping forces “for a specified period” was made in response to the appeal of the President of Kazakhstan, Kasym-Żomart Tokayev, and “in the face of the threat to national security and the sovereignty of the Republic of Kazakhstan caused, inter alia, by external interference”. Pashinyan did not reveal how numerous the forces would be, nor when they would be dispatched.
The US condemns the acts of violence in Kazakhstan
The US State Department condemned the violence and destruction of property in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, and called on both demonstrators and authorities for restraint.
The published statement, which described Kazakhstan as a “valuable partner,” called on all Kazakhs to “respect and defend constitutional bodies and human rights” as well as freedom of the media, including restoring internet connectivity.
Main photo source: STR / PAP / EPA