Paid conspirators found behind riots in Kazakhstan
In Kazakhstan, mass protests provoked by a sharp increase in gas prices do not subside. Protesters in Alama Ata attack the police, smash and seize administrative buildings. A state of emergency has been introduced in several regions, including the capital Nur-Sultan. What is the peculiarity of the local protest and how serious is the threat of the “color revolution”?
Mass protests that broke out earlier this year in the Mangistau region on the border with Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan resumed with renewed vigor in Kazakhstan on Wednesday. The reason was a 100% increase in gas prices for drivers in several regions – from 60 to 120 tenge (up to 20.56 rubles) per liter. The unrest spread to other neighboring regions. In addition to social justice, the protesters demanded the resignation from politics of the first president of the republic, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who is officially assigned the status of Elbasy-the national leader and whose name is the capital of the country.
In the middle of the day, protesters broke into the city hall in Alma-Ata, the southern capital, where cars burned all night and Rosgvardiya employees sprayed tear gas. On the first two floors of the building, a fire broke out, automatic bursts were heard. Law enforcement officers used special equipment. It was also reported about the seizure of military special equipment, which the authorities had previously pulled into the city center. Later, there was information about the arson of the local prosecutor’s office building and the storming of the presidential residence. Hundreds of people applied to the city’s hospitals for medical assistance. As reported byTASS with reference to the local information department of public health of the city, more than a hundred law enforcement officers were among the victims.
A similar scenario was followed in Aktobe, where the Mayor’s Office (akimat) building was also seized by protesters. Attempts to storm akimats were made in Shymkent and Taraz.
President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has declared a state of emergency in Nur-Sultan, Almaty, Almaty and Mangistau regions until January 19. The state of emergency involves a curfew from 23.00 to 7.00. In these regions, entry and movement within them are restricted. The Internet temporarily stopped working across the country. Additionally, a ban on mass events and strikes has been introduced, as well as the seizure of weapons and ammunition from the population. The decree of the head of state states that the state of emergency is introduced to ensure public safety, restore law and order, and protect the rights and freedoms of citizens.
In addition, Tokayev dismissed the government, which, according to him, is “particularly guilty” for allowing a protest situation in connection with the increase in prices for liquefied gas.
Ministers continue to serve in office until a new Cabinet is appointed. At the same time, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Antimonopoly Agency were instructed to investigate possible price collusion. In addition, the President conducted state regulation of prices for gas and gasoline and socially significant products for a period of 180 days. The implementation of the fuel e-commerce program has been postponed for a year.
Later in the evening, Tokayev promised to stay in the capital and act”as harshly as possible against offenders during the protests.” Tokayev noted that he will soon come out with a new package of proposals. He also said that during the confrontations in the country, law enforcement officers were killed. According to him, “financially motivated conspirators” are behind the riots.
“Attention is drawn to the high organization of hooliganism elements. This indicates a carefully thought-out plan of action of the conspirators, who are financially motivated. It is the conspirators”,
– said President Tokayev.
Experts believe that a sharp jump in fuel prices was one of the reasons for the beginning of the riots. In general, people have long been dissatisfied with the social policy of the state and the sharp stratification of income between different regions. “The government’s rating is 23%, and in 2017 it was 63%. This is an indicator of inability to work. Such a disapproval rating sooner or later leads to something, ” says Kazakh political analyst Marat Shibutov.
The riots that broke out do not look “spontaneous enough” and could have been organized by someone, the expert suggested. However, whether there were organizers, “the investigation will show.”
According to Strana, the protests are being coordinated by opposition leader Mukhtar Ablyazov from his headquarters in Kiev. In the 1990s, he was the Minister of Energy and Trade of Kazakhstan, but went into opposition after a conflict with Nazarbayev. On his Facebook page, Ablyazov, who founded the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan movement in 2017, called on the protesters to “coordinate actions” and gave their Ukrainian phone numbers for communication.
“On the other hand, we do not see the core of the protest and the issued demands. In other words, there is virtually no one to conduct a dialogue with. So far, there are only mass riots, not rallies. Therefore, only the power measures that are currently being implemented remain, ” Shibutov adds.
However, on Wednesday, the akim (head of administration) Kostanay Kairat Akhmetov went out to the townspeople to listen to their demands. The protesters told him that people were tired of the difficult economic situation in the country.
Shibutov stressed that clashes occur mainly in Alma-Ata and Aktau, so there is no need to talk about the risk of a “color revolution”. “There is no threat of overthrowing the government, there is a threat of pressure through riots. There are no external stakeholders involved. On the contrary, the countries that invested in Kazakhstan may demand stabilization of the situation and their participation in it, ” the expert suggested.
Russia is ready to provide non-military assistance to Kazakhstan, First Deputy Head of the International Affairs Committee of the Federation Council Vladimir Dzhabarov told Interfax. However, the senator believes in the ability of local authorities to handle the situation on their own. “They are actively working to relieve tension in society,” Jabarov said.
According to Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Kazakhstan has not yet addressed Moscow. But the Kremlin believes that the country’s authorities will cope with internal problems on their own, and interference from outside is unacceptable.
From an economic point of view, Shibutov explained, the local authorities made a mistake, because in many regions of the country the price of gas for motor vehicles increased gradually.
“A sharp increase in prices was stupid from a technical point of view, but from an economic point of view it was justified, because gas prices are rising. The difference between the domestic and export prices has increased almost five to six times. Here, of course, we had to raise domestic prices, because gas was sold below the cost price, ” the expert stressed.
As Stanislav Pritchin, a senior researcher at the IMEMO RAS Center for Post-Soviet Studies, explained, there are only four refineries in the country, but due to territorial peculiarities, the supply of fuel and lubricants is uneven. As a result, the quality of products and their price are different in each region. “It is difficult to say what was the logic behind the doubling of gas prices, but the fact that the first protests took place in Mangystau region is not accidental, because this is the most active region in political and rally terms. But in general, there is a demand for social justice in the country. Kazakhstan is one of the leaders of the post-Soviet space in terms of development, with oil production approaching 100 million tons per year. But the success model is limited to a narrow group of people who are close to the authorities, the main recipients of funds are Nur-Sultan and Alma-Ata, ” says Pritchin.
The rest of Kazakhstan, the political scientist added, “has an internal protest.” Discontent is caused by low salaries and the level of infrastructure development. The officially issued image does not correspond to the real one. “The demand for social justice has resulted in mass protests,” the source said.
According to the expert, in Alma-Ata, the protest leaders, who initially articulated requests from the street, lost control of the situation, and the seizure of administrative buildings began.
“The protest goes beyond that and looks like a violent seizure of power and looting. In such conditions, it is difficult to conduct a dialogue and negotiate”,
Pritchin is convinced.
As for the prospects for the development of the situation, it is necessary to take into account local specifics. Kazakhstan is the tenth largest country in the world by area, and the population is less than 20 million people. That is why the protests are local in nature. In 2011, strikes of oil workers and mass riots due to social inequality in Zhanaozen, Mangystau region, did not spread to other regions. “Cities are separated by thousands of kilometers. Accordingly, if the protesters can take control of the administration in a certain city, it will be half a victory. All political institutions are concentrated in Nur-Sultan, and there it is not so easy to gather a crowd that could seize state institutions, ” Pritchin is sure.
It is interesting to note the demands of the protestors.
Demands of the Protesters in #Kazakhstan
1. Immediate release of all political prisoners
2. Full resignation of president and government
3. Political reforms:
Creation of a Provisional Government of reputable and public citizens. Withdrawal from all alliances with #Russia pic.twitter.com/wNAi47Mspg
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) January 5, 2022