Protesters take to the streets for a third day amid widespread anger over the lifting of price tags on liquefied petroleum gas.
Demonstrations against the rise energy prices took place on Tuesday for a third consecutive day in Kazakhstan, marking a rare display of mass public discord in the former Soviet republic.
The protests initially erupted over the weekend in the village of Zhanaozen, in the oil-rich western Mangystau region, caused by the lifting of price reductions on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
They have since spread to several towns and cities, including the Aktau regional center on the country’s coast of the Caspian Sea, as well as a labor camp used by subcontractors from Kazakhstan’s largest oil producer, Tengizchevroil. The protests apparently involved thousands of people.
Massive protests across Kazakhstan against the backdrop of deteriorating economic conditions, fuel price increase.
– Liveuamap (@Liveuamap) 4 January 2022
Protesters in Zhanaozen, an oil industry center where dozens of people died in protests in 2011 caused by the dismissal of oil workers calling for better pay and working conditions, demanded that the price of VPG be halved from 120 tenge ($ 0 , 27) per liter to the level at which the fuel was sold last year.
Retailers have agreed to cut the price by a quarter, but President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s government has said further cuts are impossible due to production costs.
The price was previously regulated, but officials said artificially low prices make VPG production unattainable.
President calls for ‘dialogue’
Tokayev moved to try to calm the protests.
He said on Twitter on Tuesday that a government commission had started working in Aktau and would find a solution “in the interest of stability in our country”.
“Law enforcement agencies have been instructed to ensure that public order is not violated. Demonstrators must show responsibility and willingness to engage in dialogue, “Tokayev added.
His remarks come after videos circulated on social media showed police surrounding protesters in Aktau on Monday night.
There were also reports on social media that authorities cut off the internet in some areas, blocked news websites and detained reporters in response to the protests. Al Jazeera was unable to verify the reports independently.
#Kazakhstan: @kaztagkz & https://t.co/WEEVv6y3j2 blocked amid coverage of protests against gas price hikes! KazTAG news agency refuses to delete article from Ministry of Information @aqdm_mior‘s request for allegedly false information. @RSF_af an appeal to an end to this censorship. pic.twitter.com/v3nyflqIpo
– RSF in English (@RSF_en) 4 January 2022
Tokayev took office in 2019, hand-picked as a successor by the country’s founding leader Nursultan Nazarbayev.
But Nazarbayev, 81, who has ruled Kazakhstan since 1989, retains control of the country as chairman of the Security Council and “Leader of the Nation” – a title that gives him unique policy-making privileges as well as immunity from prosecution.