Kazakhstan’s president vows ‘robust’ response to protests

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has promised to behave “robustly” in response to nationwide protests prompted by a pointy rise in gas costs, as he took over as head of the nation’s Security Council.

Tokayev’s remarks, delivered in a televised tackle to the nation on Wednesday, got here because the worst unrest for greater than a decade shocked the huge Central Asian nation.

He mentioned there had been casualties amongst safety forces throughout 4 days of demonstrations which started on the weekend within the city of Zhanaozen, within the oil-rich western Mangystau area, after value caps on liquefied petroleum gasoline (LPG) have been lifted.

More than 200 individuals have been arrested nationwide in reference to the protests, which have since unfold to a variety of different cities and a number of other cities.

Tokayev mentioned he wouldn’t depart the nation regardless of the widespread present of public anger, committing as a substitute to stay within the capital metropolis of Nur-Sultan, the place a state of emergency has been declared.

“This is a matter of the security of our state. I am confident the people will support me,” he mentioned, earlier than pledging to return ahead with unspecified proposals for the “political transformation” of Kazakhstan within the “near future”.

‘Internet blackout’

A state of emergency has additionally been declared within the nation’s largest metropolis Almaty, the place earlier on Wednesday protesters stormed the native mayor’s workplace and appeared to have seized management of the constructing.

The developments in Almaty got here after Tokayev, who blamed “financially-motivated conspirators” of fomenting the protests, sacked Kazakhstan’s authorities in an obvious bid to assuage these taking to the streets.

Tokayev additionally ordered the reinstating of value controls on LPG, and for caps to be utilized to petrol, diesel and different “socially important” shopper items within the former Soviet republic.Kazakhstan map

Meanwhile, authorities appeared to have shut the web off because the unrest unfold, with connectivity ranges plunged to nearly zero throughout the nation, in response to world web monitoring group Netblocks.

“Kazakhstan is now in the midst of a nation-scale internet blackout after a day of mobile internet disruptions and partial restrictions,” the NetBlocks monitor tweeted. “The incident is likely to severely limit coverage of escalating anti-government protests.”

Peter Zalmayev, government director of the Eurasia Democracy Initiative, a non-profit organisation, informed Al Jazeera the scenario was threatening to “spiral out of control”.

“The formal excuse for the protests is the lifting of the cap on LPG, in a country where salaries are pretty modest by world standards,” Zalmayev mentioned.

“But on the other hand, we are seeing increasingly political demands being added by the protesters, to the point where one of their main demands – the ouster of the government – has been met but it does not satisfy them any longer. This is a very scary situation … and officials are now smelling real trouble,” he added.

Major check for Tokayev

Kazakhstan is tightly managed and cultivates a picture of political stability, serving to it entice a whole bunch of billions of {dollars} of overseas funding in its oil and metals industries.

Public protests are uncommon within the nation, whose parliament is devoid of opposition, and deemed unlawful until their organisers file a discover in advance.

The unrest is the largest check but of Tokayev, 68, who took workplace in 2019 because the hand-picked successor to former chief Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Nazarbayev held energy for 3 a long time and had till now continued to wield vital affect because the chief of the Security Council after unexpectedly stepping down from the presidency three years in the past.

But the previous president, 81, has not been seen or heard from in public because the begin of the protests.

It was unclear if his obvious sidelining would fulfill the demonstrators, a few of whom have been heard chanting “Old man, go away!”, a standard anti-Nazarbayev slogan.

Footage shared on social media additionally appeared to point out protesters trying to drag down a statue of the previous president on Wednesday within the city of Taldykorgan, the capital of the Almaty area.

Earlier, Tokayev had eliminated Nazarbayev’s nephew Samat Abish from his submit of first deputy head on the State Security Committee, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB.

The scenario in Kazakhstan has additionally provoked alarm within the wider area, with Kazakhstan’s shut ally Russia saying on Wednesday that it anticipated the nation to shortly resolve its inside issues.

Moscow, which is acutely delicate to unrest in former Soviet republics it regards as a part of its sphere of affect, additionally warned different international locations in opposition to interfering within the scenario.

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