Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

Tokayev says unrest threatens national security in television speech as concerns increase over reported internet disruption.

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has vowed to act “robustly” in response to nationwide protests spurred by a sharp rise in fuel prices as he took over as head of the country’s Security Council.

Tokayev’s remarks, delivered in a televised speech to the country on Wednesday, came as the worst unrest for more than a decade shocked the sprawling Central Asian nation.

He said there were casualties among security forces during four-day protests that began over the weekend in the town of Zhanaozen, in the oil-rich western Mangystau region, after price caps on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) were lifted.

More than 200 people have been arrested nationwide in connection with the protests, which have since spread to a number of other towns and various cities.

Tokayev said he would not leave the country despite widespread public outrage, pledging to stay in the capital Nur-Sultan, where a state of emergency has been declared.

“It is a matter of the security of our state. I am confident that the people will support me, ”he said, before promising to come forward with unspecified proposals for the“ political transformation ”in the“ near future ”.

A state of emergency has also been declared in the country’s largest city, Almaty, where protesters marched on Wednesday. storm the local mayor’s office and apparently took control of the building.

The developments in Almaty came after Tokayev, who blamed “financially-motivated conspirators” for inciting the protests, fired Kazakhstan’s government in an apparent attempt to calm those entering the streets.

Tokayev also ordered that price controls be reinstated on VPG, and that caps be applied to petrol, diesel and other “socially important” consumer goods in the former Soviet republic.Map of Kazakhstan

Meanwhile, authorities appeared to have turned off the internet as the unrest spread, with connection levels falling across the country to almost zero, according to the global internet monitoring group Netblocks.

“Kazakhstan is now in the midst of a nationwide internet eclipse after a day of mobile internet disruptions and partial restrictions,” the NetBlocks monitor tweeted. “The incident is likely to severely limit coverage of increasing anti-government protests.”

Big test for Tokayev

Kazakhstan is strictly controlled and cultivates an image of political stability, which helps it attract hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign investment in its oil and metal industries.

Public protests are rare in the country, whose parliament is without opposition, and are considered illegal unless their organizers give prior notice.

The unrest is the biggest test yet of Tokayev (68), who took office in 2019 as the chosen successor to former leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has held power for three decades.

The situation also provoked alarm in the greater region, with Kazakhstan’s close ally Russia saying on Wednesday it expected the country to resolve its internal problems quickly. Moscow, which is extremely sensitive to unrest in former Soviet republics which it considers part of its sphere of influence, has also warned other countries to intervene in the situation.

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