Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the President of Kazakhstan, declared a state of emergency in Central Asian countries’ biggest city Almaty and the western Mangistau province for two weeks. Earlier on Wednesday, the presidential office said that the government decided to announce an emergency to combat the violent protests as the fuel prices hiked. It sparked the resignation of the government as it failed to control the overall situation in the country.
State-run Khabar 24 reported that protestors breached the airport of the country’s biggest city. The emergency will stay until 19th January, with the news agency saying restrictions on public movement, including transport, were announced in all three major cities and fourteen regions. In the three cities, local government officials came under attack. According to the statement of the Interior Ministry, protestors damaged buildings by using stones, gas, pepper, sticks, and Molotov cocktails.
Kazakhstan’s president calls for Russian support to combat the countrywide protests against the government. Yesterday, the president declared a state of emergency in the protest-hit city. As the unrest escalates, the prime minister resigns from the seat. pic.twitter.com/xuP7mvSJ0z
— Live News Now (@LiveNewsNow6) January 6, 2022
Internet Outage and Power Cut
A reporter in Almaty told CNN that they were experiencing power cuts and internet outages in the buildings near the president’s residence and mayor’s office. Almaty airport press service told local outlet Orda.kz that on Wednesday, there were around forty-five invades at the airport. The airport staff evacuated passengers on their own. Reuters reported that the government hiked prices on liquified petroleum gas at the year start, resulting in the triggering of the protests.
Many residents of Kazakhstan converted their vehicles to run on fuel because of its low cost. Amid the protests, Prime Minister Askar Mamin resigned, and President Tokayev called a meeting on the growing socio-economic and difficult socio-political situation in the country, the presidential website statement said.
Kazakhstan Government Called for Russian Help
The Kazakhstan President called for the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) support as countrywide unrest escalates. In addition, the officials will deploy Russian-led military troops to help stabilize the country amid the anti-government demonstrations. Tokayev claimed the countrywide turmoil was the work of foreign-trained terrorist groups.
Chatham House, an expert on Central Asia at the foreign affairs advisory board in London, said the protests are symptomatic of very deep-seated and seething anger and anger at the failure of the government to modernize their nation and announce reforms that impact individuals at all levels. Furthermore, the president-announced emergency includes an overnight curfew and a ban on mass gatherings and pledged a strong response to the protests.
In the initial hours of Thursday, the president said in the televised speech that he asked for help from the CISCO. Later on, Wednesday, the chairman of CSTO, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, wrote on Facebook that the alliance of Russian and five former-Soviet states would send peacekeeping forces for a limited period.
The United States State Department stated that it is closely monitoring the situation in Kazakhstan. Since the declaration of independence in 1991, President Tokayev has been the only second person to lead Kazakhstan. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) condemned the Tokayev election in 2019 as showing little respect for democratic standards.
In Almaty, protesters gathered at the mayor’s office before finally storming it. People shared several videos on social media platforms that showed a cloud of smoke rising from the building. One can also hear gunfire in those videos. Kanat Taimerdenov, the police chief of the city, said extremists and activists attacked five hundred civilians and looted several businesses.
Fuel Price Spike
After the fuel price climbed, protests involving thousands of demonstrators erupted on 2nd January in the town of Zhanaozen, an oil hub and the place of deadly clashes between police and protestors. Additionally, protestors spread to other areas of surrounding western Kazakhstan, provincial center Aktau and Mangistau province, including a worker camp of sub-contractors of Tengizchevroil, the biggest oil producer of the country.
According to online video streams and videos from the unrest area, the police appeared to take control of the main square of Almaty after throwing flashbang grenades. However, explosions were heard for some hours on neighboring streets and other parts of the city. On Tuesday, the government announced restoring the price cap of 11 cents (fifty tenges) per liter, or less than half the market price, in the province of Mangistau.
Public protests are unlawful in the country of nineteen million unless their organizers file a notice in advance. On Twitter, the president said on Tuesday that he would hold a meeting at the governmental level the following day to discuss the demands of protestors. Tokayev urged protesters to behave responsibly until the government oversaw their demands.
The Kazakhstan government instantly restored price caps on LPG, which powers most vehicles in the west. Tokayev also removed Nazarbayev as head of the National Security Council before announcing the state of emergency in the country. However, according to the global Internet monitor, NetBlocks, a near-complete Internet blackout started Wednesday noon persisted into Thursday. During the televised Tokayev speech, the authorities restored partial access to the internet, but distractions were put back shortly after the speech.
Kazakhstan is the number two populous and the wealthiest country in Central Asia. The countrywide unrest, along with the possible entrance of Russian-backed forces, provoked concerns in the Washington and regional capitals. About a fifth of the country’s population is ethnic Russians. In the past, Moscow deployed peacekeepers to nations that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s concerns are slipping out of his political orbit.
Leaders in Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia previously complained that such forces bolster pro-Russian pro-independence forces. Ned Price, the spokesperson of the U.S. State Department, called on all stakeholders to resolve the unrest peacefully. He also condemned the demolition and destruction of property and acts of violence and demanded restraint by both the protestors and authorities.
We are aware of reports of protests throughout Kazakhstan. The United States calls for a peaceful, rights-respecting resolution of the state of emergency, and restraint by both the authorities and protestors. https://t.co/6BJhdPd7FI
— Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) January 5, 2022
Additionally, he requested all Kazakhstanis to defend and respect human rights, constitutional institutions, and press freedom, including the restoration of internet service. The public anger against the country’s leaders is also probable to be a headache for China, which shares a border with the country. A center-right think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, estimates that the investment of China and development projects in Kazakhstan between 2005 and 2021 totaled over $34 billion.
Kazakhstan and China celebrated thirty years of ambassadorial ties Monday. At that time, Chinese President Xi sent a congratulatory message to Tokayev and Nazarbayev. According to Chinese state documents, the president called the former an old friend. He also said he wanted to cooperate with both leaders to strengthen strategic ties between their countries.