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Jan 5, 2022
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“Don’t Shoot Your Citizens”: What’s going on in Kazakhstan and how protests might affect Russia

Photo: Police officers during a protest against the rise in prices for liquefied gas, Almaty, Kazakhstan

Photo: Police officers during a protest against the rise in prices for liquefied gas, Almaty, Kazakhstan (Photo: AP Photo / Vladimir Tretyakov / TASS)

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared a two-week state of emergency in Central Asia’s largest city, Almaty, and in western Mangistau Oblast, where protests escalated into violence, the Kazakh president’s office said early on December 5. A curfew has been introduced – from 11 pm to 7 am, mass meetings and rallies are prohibited, movement is restricted.

And before that, late at night, Tokayev appealed to the nation with a request “not to attack government and military institutions” and even explained why – “it is illegal.” While he pacified his citizens with alarm in his voice on “TV”, the heated crowd went to storm the city hall of Almaty. The police used tear gas and stun grenades.

“Demonstrators have been taking to the streets for three days amid widespread anger over the rise in the price of liquefied gas,” Qatar’s Al Jazeera writes with clear sympathy on the side of the “rioters”.

The publication explains what caused the popular fury: “Demonstrators in Zhanaozen, the center of the oil industry, where dozens of people were killed during protests in 2011 caused by the layoffs of oil workers who called for higher wages and better working conditions, demanded that the price of liquefied gas be cut in half from 120 tenge ($ 0.27) per liter to the level at which fuel was sold last year. “

As for the reaction of the authorities: under pressure from above, retailers cut the price of LNG by a quarter, however, the Cabinet of Ministers said that further reduction is impossible due to production costs. Officials claim that allegedly “artificially low prices make the production of liquefied gas impossible.”

People, however, do not understand the whining of their nouveau riche ministers. Kazakhs live in an oil-rich country and receive a penny at the same time. In a word, why raise the price of what is under the native land and is also mined by it? The fact is that many have converted their cars to liquefied gas, which was much cheaper than gasoline before the New Year. This somehow made it possible to use cars, but now, at a price of $ 0.27 (20 rubles) per liter of LNG, many people simply cannot afford the “iron horse”. So the poor got angry with the authorities.

Videos posted on the Internet showed police cars set on fire in the city, as well as armored vehicles moving along one of its main thoroughfares, which journalists regard as an escalation of violence. Tokayev, “having applied the whip, nevertheless returned the gingerbread.” On the evening of December 4, the government announced that it was restoring the ceiling price of 50 tenge ($ 0.11 or 8.1 rubles) per liter in the Mangistau region.

Later, due to the blocking of social networks, news agencies were unable to confirm the authenticity of the videos about the set on fire police cars, which are reported separately. The authorities have blocked mobile messenger apps in large parts of Kazakhstan.

At the same time, Tokayev, on his Twitter page, accused some “destructive individuals who want to undermine the stability and unity of our society” for the protests. Still, Kassym-Zhomart Kemelevich promised: “Other requirements of a socio-economic nature will be considered separately, including during tomorrow’s working meeting in the capital.”

Internet people reacted with harsh comments directly on the president’s twitter.

Gulya Almambetova: “… just don’t put everyone in a row.”

Vyacheslav Abramov: “Blocking KazTAG and the Horde is a pure act of censorship, absolutely ridiculous and stupid. We demand to immediately unblock the websites of our colleagues and stop pressure on the media. “

Asem Zhapisheva: “Don’t shoot or hit your citizens.”

In general, information, including in Russia, is presented as if it all started on January 2 in the city of Zhanaozen due to a sudden jump in the price of motor gas. In fact, the twofold increase in the cost of LNG at gas stations was the last straw that overflowed the cup of the people’s patience. In Kazakhstan, according to social networks, literally everything has risen in price, including due to the increase in customs duties. People are especially enraged by the waste collection and the jump in price tags for food and housing.

So it is not surprising that the usual, in fact, gathering of ordinary people in Zhanaozen quickly spread to the nearby villages of the Mangistau region, and then to many other regions in the west – in cities such as Aktau, Atyrau and Aktobe. By January 4, people had already taken to the streets in droves hundreds of kilometers from the seat of protest – in southern Taraz, Shymkent and Kyzylorda, as well as in the north – in Uralsk and Kostanay. Popular anger flared up in Almaty and Nur-Sultan, in the most prosperous agglomerations of the country.

Forumchanka alio olio (@shainazavr) cited a video of one of these demonstrations, under which she wrote “There were a LOT of us, I saw this for the first time.” Observers and journalists confirm that “this has never happened in Kazakhstan.”

In the photo: police officers and protesters against the rise in prices for liquefied gas.
In the photo: police officers and protesters against the rise in prices for liquefied gas. (Photo: AP Photo / Vladimir Tretyakov / TASS)

According to a user with a nickname Vyacheslav Abramov“The detentions in Almaty yesterday and today are especially tough. Apparently, the police have an intention not to allow protests here at any cost. Almost everywhere people were allowed to gather, in Almaty – harsh forceful suppression ”.

Numerous photos of the dispersal of demonstrators on Republic Square in Almaty show the intensity of the confrontation. Eurasianet newspaper writes: “Clashes in Almaty continued throughout the night of January 5th. After the police dispersed the crowd from Republic Square, part of the crowd headed about two kilometers down the slope, to another historical place in the city – to Astana Square, where the government building was located in Soviet times.

And yet, the scope of the protests and the potential of the “gas revolution” are not yet clear. This is indirectly evidenced by the fact that the international media sluggishly commented on the events of these four days (starting from January 2). The journalistic fraternity really “woke up” only tonight after the events on Republic Square. Now everyone is wondering what will happen next. The fact is that in the city of Aktobe, the guards refused to arrest the protesters. Say, “they (the police) are with the people and will not raise their hand” This was reported by the Orda.kz portal. Bad signal for Tokayev.

In the photo: protesters against the rise in prices for liquefied gas in Republic Square.  After the meeting of the government commission with the demonstrators, the gas price raised on January 1, 2022 was reduced from $ 0.27 to $ 0.11
In the photo: protesters against the rise in prices for liquefied gas in Republic Square. After the meeting of the government commission with the demonstrators, the gas price raised on January 1, 2022 was reduced from $ 0.27 to $ 0.11 (Photo: Diana Matveeva / Orda.kz / TASS)

From time to time the slogans “Shal, ket!” Slip through, which translates as “Old man, go away!” There is only one interpretation of this call and it concerns Nazarbayeva, supposedly secret puppeteer Tokayev. Specifically, Eurasianet explains: “The chant, commonly understood as a reference to former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who continues to exert significant influence behind the scenes, was heard in many demonstrations.”

It is unlikely that the increased prices for automobile fuel (we would have such) become a detonator of mass protests. Kazakhs are angry with the authorities because for the most part they live in poverty – in a country rich in oil and resources. People at the protests only talk about the fact that export earnings are distributed unfairly, and the alleged average salary in Kazakhstan of 250,000 tenge ($ 575 or 42,550 rubles) once again shows that some get everything, while others cannot buy LNG. 120 tenge per liter ($ 0.27 or 19 rubles).

If, in fact, the “average Tokaev’s” salary was the most frequently met, no one would have taken to the streets against the authorities. Yes, in the reports of the authorities, the incomes of the Kazakhs have been growing for several years, but for the overwhelming majority they were both low and remained, despite the export of oil. But spending on food, housing, medicine and now on fuel for cars has increased sharply.

People say, “We could have lived as well as the residents of Dubai, thanks to the oil revenues, if only they had not been plundered.” But everything goes only to the thieves’ top. In Kazakhstan, it is called the ruling Nur Otan party, which always wins – even if the people hate it.

Does this remind you of anything ?!

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