Report: Kazakh President’s house lights up as protests escalate

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News has it that the presidential residence in Kazakhstan’s largest city is surrounded by flames and armed protesters have stormed another government building.

MOSCOW – The presidential residence of Kazakhstan’s largest city was set on fire on Wednesday and armed protesters stormed another government building, news reports said, as protests sparked by rising fuel prices rose sharply.

In response to the protests, the government resigned and the president vowed to take tough measures to quell the riots. At the end of the day, Kazakh news sites became inaccessible, and the global watchdog Netblocks said the country was experiencing widespread Internet blackouts.

But the Russian news agency Tass reported from Kazakhstan that Almati’s presidential residence, where thousands of protesters had gathered outside, was on fire and that the city’s main administrative building, which includes the The mayor’s office was burning from top to bottom hours after protesters stormed in.

Many of the protesters who rallied in the mayor’s office wore clubs and shields, according to previous reports in the Kazakh media.

Protests began on Sunday in Zhanaozen, a western city where government resentment was strong following a 2011 oil workers’ strike in which police killed at least 15 people. They spread throughout the country in the following days and on Tuesday large demonstrations broke out in the capital, Nur-Sultan, and in Almaty, the largest and oldest capital city in the country.

Although protests began to nearly double the price of liquefied gas, which is widely used as a fuel for vehicles, the magnitude and rapid spread of the riots suggest that they reflect widespread discontent in the country that has been under government. of the same party since independence. of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Protests appear to have no identifiable leader or demands.

In a televised statement to the nation on Wednesday, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said that “we intend to act with the utmost severity with regard to violators of the law.” Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Friday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck.

Tokayev said police have been killed in clashes with protesters, but there are no immediate casualties for police or civilians.

In the statement, he also pledged to make political reforms and announced that he was taking over the leadership of the national security council. The latter is potentially significant because the council had been headed by Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was chairman from 1991 until he resigned in 2019.

Nazarbayev dominated Kazakhstan politics and his government was marked by a moderate cult of personality. Critics say he effectively instituted a system of clans in government.

After the protests spread to Almaty and the capital, the government announced his resignation, but Tokayev said ministers would remain in office until a new cabinet is formed, which is unknown. the waiver will have a significant effect.

Tokayev has declared a two-week state of emergency for both the capital and Almaty, imposing a curfew overnight and restricting movement in and around cities.

Earlier this year, liquefied gas prices more or less doubled as the government moved away from price controls. Although Kazakhstan has large reserves of gas and oil and mineral wealth, discontent over poor living conditions is strong in some parts of the country. Many Kazakhs also face the dominance of the ruling party, which holds more than 80% of the seats in parliament.

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