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Kazakh President Sacks Cabinet, Declares Emergency amid Unrest

Kazakh President Sacks Cabinet, Declares Emergency amid Unrest
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By Staff, Agencies

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev sacked his cabinet and imposed the state of emergency in the country’s largest city and an oil-rich western region following mass protests triggered by a rise in fuel prices.

Tokayev said on Wednesday morning that he had accepted the resignation of the cabinet led by Prime Minister Askar Mamin, and ordered the acting cabinet to reinstate price controls on Liquefied Petroleum Gas [LPG].

He also ordered the acting cabinet to broaden price controls to petrol, diesel and other “socially important” consumer goods.

The moves followed clashes in Almaty overnight between police and thousands of protesters who had called for the government’s resignation.

Some of them yelled “old man out” – a reference to Tokayev’s still-powerful predecessor and mentor Nursultan Nazarbayev – while others attacked vehicles. Police used tear gas and stun grenades to stop a crowd of protesters from storming the mayor’s office.

In a bid to quell the unrest, Tokayev early on Wednesday imposed states of emergency in Almaty as well as the western Mangistau province.

The decrees, he said, would last two weeks and include an 11pm to 7am curfew, movement restrictions, and a ban on mass gatherings.

“Calls to attack government and military offices are absolutely illegal,” Tokayev had said in a video address earlier in the night. “The government will not fall, but we want mutual trust and dialogue rather than conflict.”

Messenger apps Telegram, Signal and WhatsApp were all unavailable in the Central Asian country, while two independent media websites that reported on the protests appeared to have been blocked.

The protests broke out in the town of Zhanazoen in the western Mangistau region on January 2, a day after the government lifted caps on prices for LPG.

Mangistau depends on the comparatively cheap LPG as the main fuel for automobiles and the AFP news agency said any jump in prices would have affected the price of food, which has seen steep increases since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

The protests quickly spread to other parts of Mangistau and western Kazakhstan, including the provincial center, Aktau, and on to Almaty and the national capital, Nur-sultan.