Kazakhstan has declared a nationwide state of emergency after protests over a fuel price hike erupted into clashes and saw demonstrators storm government buildings. Russian news agencies Interfax, TASS and RIA Novosti reported the Kazakhstan government’s decision, quoting a statement shown on Kazakh state television.
The Kazakhstan government had earlier imposed states of emergency on the epicentres of the wild demonstrations — financial capital Almaty, the Mangystau province, and capital Nur-Sultan.
Earlier today, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev vowed to take tough action to quell deadly protests that posed the biggest challenge to the country’s leadership in decades. The demonstrations started over the weekend in western Kazakhstan over a jump in fuel prices but quickly spilt into broader discontent drawing thousands to the streets across the country.
In the former capital, Almaty, both city hall and the president’s residence were ablaze after protesters stormed the buildings yesterday, Interfax reported.
“I intend to act as harshly as possible,” Tokayev said in a national address. Law-enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty, he said, blaming the protests on “financially motivated conspirators”.
Some of the protesters called for the country’s first president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who for over three decades has been the major political force in the country, to let go of the reins of power and chose Tokayev as successor in 2019.
Tokayev, whose primary residence is in the capital Nur-Sultan, initially sought to appease protesters by imposing price caps on motor fuels for the next six months and accepting his government’s resignation. He also declared a state of emergency in and around Almaty, Nur-Sultan and the oil-rich Mangystau region, but the measures failed to ease the tensions.
Tokayev also announced that he was taking over as head of the Security Council from Nazarbayev and pledged to stay in the capital “whatever happens”.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko discussed the unrest in Kazakhstan in separate conversations on Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the Belarusian news agency Belta said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said that Kazakhstan could solve its own problems and it was important that no external agency interfered.