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State of Emergency Declared Across Kazakhstan, President Vows “Tough” Response to Unrest

State of Emergency Declared Across Kazakhstan, President Vows “Tough” Response to Unrest
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By Staff, Agencies

A state of emergency was declared across all of Kazakhstan late on Wednesday. State media has announced a state of emergency on air.

Earlier in the day, a state of emergency was declared in the regions of Almaty and Mangystau, along with the capital city of Nur-Sultan. The state of emergency is expected to remain in place until 19 January.

The new rules restrict the freedom of movement, including transport. Residents will be prohibited from mass gatherings and events, among them family gatherings related to births, weddings, and deaths.

The announcement comes as multiple cities in the country are rattled by protests that began in the south-western Mangystau region after a surge in gas prices. During the early days of 2022, the demonstrations spread over to other cities, particularly the city of Almaty, which saw escalated tensions on Wednesday.

Several important buildings in the city were set on fire, including the city administration, the prosecutor's office, and an office of the national TV channel Qazaqstan. The protesters are also reportedly storming the office of the city's interior ministry, according to the Vlast news outlet.

Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has already addressed the nation twice amid the protests. In his most recent address, he announced that he had assumed control over the country's Security Council – previously headed by former President Nursultan Nazarbayev – and said the authorities intend to act as harsh as possible against offenders in the protests.

In a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, Tokayev assured Kazakhs that he has no plans to step down after he sacked his cabinet earlier in the day. “As president, I am obliged to protect the safety and peace of our citizens, to worry about the integrity of Kazakhstan,” the president said in Russian on Kazakh television.

The president said there had been casualties among security forces during four days of demonstrations which began at the weekend in the oil-rich western region os Mangystau. He said the country had seen “massive attacks on law enforcement officers” and informed that at least several had been killed or wounded. “Crowds of bandit elements are beating up servicemen, mocking them, leading them naked through the streets, abusing women, robbing shops.”

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Kazakh president made clear he was to take over as head of the country’s Security Council. “As head of state and from today onwards as chairman of the security council, I intend to act as tough as possible,” Tokayev said. “Together we will overcome this black period in the history of Kazakhstan.”

He also pledged to come forward with proposals for the “political transformation” of Kazakhstan in the “near future.”

The ongoing unrest over an energy price hike is far from over, even after protests resulted in the resignation of the government. A state of emergency has also been declared in the country’s largest city, Almaty, where the protesters have set fire to the mayor’s office and stormed other political offices. Similar protests are also taking place in other provinces.

It was estimated that more than 100 law enforcement officers and over 50 civilians sustained injuries during the protests in Almaty. Over 200 people are said to have been detained amid the ongoing unrest.