The rising of liquefied natural gas prices in Kazakhstan have sparked mass protests. The riots started in the first days of the year, while the clashes between the protesters and the police have continued this morning in the city of Alma-Ata. Protesters attacked the administration building while police were using rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
Kazakhstan, a country in Central Asia where 18 million people live and that was part of the Soviet Union, is rich in energy resources, including oil and natural gas. Therefore, the increase in gas prices has prompted residents of the cities of Zhanaozen and Aktau to go to rallies to protest against this decision, which the Ministry of Energy explained by the fact that there is an increase in the stock market.
The President of Kazakhstan, Kasim Yomart Tokayev, signed a decree declaring a state of emergency in the Almaty region. The decree also imposed a curfew from 23:00 until 7 p.m.
Dissatisfaction with issues such as corruption, unemployment and low wages were also mentioned in the protests.
According to the Interior Ministry, more than 200 people were detained during the protests “in some regions” but observers said the real figure could be higher.
The Ministry said at least 95 people were injured in the clashes.
The reaction from Putin’s presidency was immediate, from where they expressed their concern about the situation in Kazakhstan. Kremlin spokesman Peskov said they did not have a formal request to help Kazakhstan overcome the situation yet, but called for a solution through internal dialogue, without outside interference.
However, under Russian law, if a state asks for military assistance or any other intervention, the decision must be made in parliament (Duma) and then the way is opened for Putin to extend his military influence to a certain state.
Whether Putin will use this situation to send troops to protect President Tokayev in Kazakhstan will be seen in the coming days. However, the protesters are more than loud in their demands, motivating more and more citizens to join the protests, despite the violence used by the police today.
Meanwhile, the president of Kazakhstan has sought help from Prime Minister Armen Pashinyan under the CSTO agreement.
The CSTO Collective Security Council has decided to send peacekeepers to Kazakhstan for a limited time in order to stabilize the situation in that country, said Armenian Prime Minister Nikola Pashinyan.
Kazakhstan is a country with a formal democratic system, which from the day of independence in 1990 until 2019 was led by autocratic President Nursultan Nazarabyev. He is now perceived as the father of the nation and is still respected even by foreign diplomats. Following his resignation, the capital of Kazakhstan was renamed from Astana to Nur-Sultan, in his honor. The new President Tokayev is estimated to be under the shadow and dictation of his predecessor Nazarabyev. Although Nazarbayev, 81, formally resigned as president three years ago, he has been the target of demonstrators saying, “Old man, leave!”
Pro-Kremlin media have portrayed the protests as part of a wider Western campaign against Moscow and its allies. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday that these were simply “some crazy Russian allegations” and “part of the standard Russian disinformation book.”
Kazakhstan has good relations with Russia and China, as neighbors, but has recently tried to build relations with the US, EU, Turkey and countries in the region. Together with Russia it is part of the Eurasian Union and, as a former Soviet republic, is considered an ally of Moscow.