Thousands of protestors came to the streets across Kazakhstan to protest the sudden increase in the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which is used by most Kazakhs as a car fuel.
According to a source, dozens of demonstrators were slain by Kazakh security forces during an operation to restore order in Almaty, the country’s largest city. Russia has dispatched soldiers to assist security forces in restoring order. Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has asked Russia’s Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), including Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, for assistance.
The demonstrations are continuing, despite the government’s announcement on Tuesday that fuel prices will be dropped to a level even lower than before the rise and President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s dismissal of his cabinet on Wednesday.
What is the cause of Kazakh protests?
Angry Kazakhs initially flocked to the streets on Sunday after the government loosened price limitations on LPG, extensively used in automobiles, causing fuel costs to treble in the oil-rich Central Asian nation. The demonstrations began in the oil city of Zhanaozen when police killed at least 16 oil employees protesting bad working conditions in 2011.
The reform of the gasoline market, which was initially proposed in 2015, went into force at the beginning of this month. It aimed to lift governmental price controls on butane and propane, dubbed “road fuels for the poor” due to their cheap cost. While also ensuring that the local market was adequately supplied.
Previous subsidies have resulted in Kazakhstan, a significant oil producer, experiencing regular butane and propane shortages.
The administration hoped that by fully liberalizing pricing on January 1 (Saturday), supply to the domestic market would increase, helping to alleviate persistent shortages.
However, the move backfired, as prices virtually quadrupled overnight, reaching 120 tenges per liter.
What was the government’s response to the protests?
Tokayev fired the country’s prime minister and his cabinet just hours after imposing a state of emergency in Almaty and Mangistau. He subsequently named Alikhan Smailov, the country’s first deputy prime minister, as interim prime minister.
The Kazakh government declared a state of emergency and dispatched military forces to combat “terrorists,” as Tokayev put it.
Tokayev may impose a curfew, prohibit protests, and limit internet access under the state of emergency, which he declared to quash Kazakhstan’s rare show of opposition.
According to NetBlocks, there was an internet blackout by Wednesday, following a day of mobile internet problems and partial restrictions.