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Jan 5, 2022
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Riots in Kazakhstan: On the verge of massacre, “Maidan” and a coup

In the photo: protesters against the rise in prices for liquefied gas in Almaty

Photo: protesters against the rise in prices for liquefied gas in Almaty (Photo: AP Photo / Vladimir Tretyakov / TASS)

There are riots in Kazakhstan, buildings and cars are on fire. On the streets, protesters engage in fights with law enforcement officers. In Almaty, the administration was set on fire, the disgruntled broke into the presidential residence, and gunfire was heard. Mobile communication does not work, the Internet is disconnected throughout the republic. The broadcasting of the KTK TV channel was terminated, the building of the TV center was de-energized. In four regions of the country, including the capital, a state of emergency has been introduced.

The president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev stated that he intends to “act tough” in the situation with protests. According to him, there are killed and wounded among the security forces. He also noted that the actions of the protesters indicate “a carefully thought out plan of action of the conspirators” and accused those of financial motivation.

Tokayev promised a new package of proposals to resolve the situation in the country.

The formal reason for the riots that put the republic on the brink of a coup d’etat was a sharp increase in the cost of liquefied gas. Kazakhstani presidents – old Nazarbayev and young Tokayev have already dismissed the government. But the people did not calm down from this.

Political scientist Stanislav Tarasovn recalls that the expert community has long foreseen such a development of events, an explosion in Kazakhstan:

– Some spoke about this in hints, some openly. No one guessed the plot, but the power gap that was guessed there was obvious. This is due to the transit of power, which has not been completed in the country. The situation that we saw could not last long. It was noticeable how Nursultan Nazarbayev openly plays with his partner Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev. The first president of Kazakhstan would need to distance himself further from his successor, giving him more freedom.

Even during their joint trip to Moscow, there was a feeling that Nursultan Abishevich was outplaying his successor. The fight between them was to take place. The transit of power had to end with some event. And so it happened.

The situation certainly needs to be studied: gas prices were doubled and the whole of Kazakhstan stood up. Didn’t you guess? And everyone stood up, both Russians and Kazakhs, and everyone else. There is no national question in the problem, although sometimes it seemed that Kazakhstan was going along the path of “Ukrainianization” – a regime of a nationalist type was being created.

So far, the director of the gas plant has taken responsibility. Perhaps he was carrying out an order from the Minister of Energy, who was accused of all sins. The government has already resigned.

It is not clear how Nazarbayev’s successor will act in such a situation, how the first president of Kazakhstan himself will act is not yet clear.

“SP”: – How will the political situation in the country develop?

– So far, we can only say that the events took place at a very unfavorable moment. Russia will have negotiations with Western countries. And here is a blow to the southern “underbelly”. Kazakhstan is considered our strategic partner, and recently this has been emphasized in every possible way. Although, judging by the available information, there are no external traces in the Kazakhstani events, at least not yet.

These events have seriously affected the international image of Kazakhstan. Both Nazarbayev and his successor found themselves in a critical situation. Kazakhstan has recently declared itself almost the leader of the Turkic states. Nursultan Nazarbayev competed with the President of Turkey Recep Erdogan

Kazakhstan has entered the stage of a critical crisis. We can talk about a total economic crisis. And now there is also a political crisis. It is still difficult to say how Kazakhstan will get out of this situation. It remains only to observe, but losses are inevitable.

“SP”: – Will Nazarbayev’s daughters join the game?

– They may try to play a role. In general, Nazarbayev’s song has been sung. The factor of the third force must manifest itself. So far, there is no clear leader in the protest actions. This is one of the highlights. At first, we did not see a leader in Belarus either, but then he was appointed.

In Kazakhstan, we can also face this. We have not lived for the first day in the era of color revolutions and we understand that such rallies, protests and seizures cannot be spontaneously carried out. There is some kind of governing kernel to be calculated.

It is also alarming that the law enforcement agencies are confused, at least the police. They cannot figure out how to proceed. Or there is no clear command. Or commands come from different centers, and the performers themselves have to make a choice, to carry out a cook command. There are many versions that are alarming …

The activists were not satisfied with the resignation of the government, they are already demanding the resignation of the president and all heads of administration. Both security forces and protesters are preparing for nighttime clashes. Those and others will have, if firearms have not already appeared. There is a great risk that the conflict in the capital will follow the version of the Ukrainian Maidan.

Although the comparison with the Ukrainian Maidan may not be correct, because Nursultan Nazarbayev is not Victor Yanukovich, he had already experienced something similar. Moreover, it is at gas production enterprises. And now the authorities are quite determined. Although the situation in Kazakhstan may be even more serious than what happened in Ukraine in 2014.

Director of the Energy Development Fund Sergey Pikin believes that the rise in gas prices was not the true cause of the unrest:

– This is just a pretext, and the reasons are deeper, political, socio-economic. The reasons accumulated and at some point “the patience is over.” The reason – a two-fold rise in prices provoked people to take to the streets.

Prices immediately began to adjust and they dropped below what they had been. But the people did not calm down on this. This means that the reasons are not only in the rise in gas prices, this is only one of the factors, the “trigger” of this situation.

As for the gas situation in Kazakhstan, there is pipeline gas there too. Tariffs are regulated in the same way as in Russia. And for liquefied gas, just like ours, prices are not regulated, there is also a free price. Liquefied gas costs 120 tenge or 20 rubles per liter. We passed this milestone at the beginning of last year, but no one was indignant, now we have 23-26 rubles per liter. Moreover, we did not have any protests.

“SP”: – In Kazakhstan, do many people refuel cars with liquefied gas?

– Yes, they have a large share of vehicles using NGV fuel. Feels good. Gasoline is expensive, gas is relatively cheap. While everything was so, everyone drove it with pleasure. But then there was a sharp, unexpected, two-fold rise in prices without any warning. And it burst, as they say.

“SP”: There was no real owner in the country, which probably does not correspond to the eastern mentality?

– On the one hand, there are even two masters in the country: the president and the first president. Probably, this is a kind of political contradiction of Eastern democracy.

But at the same time, there was no competition on the gas market, and there is not. Not that the price has gone up as a result of the competition. I just raised one factory price and that’s it. We decided to pick it up and pick it up …

Now the main thing for our neighbors is to calm down spontaneous or semi-spontaneous street protests, and then look for someone to negotiate with. Most likely, Nazarbayev’s team, if not aware, then roughly guesses who benefits from such protests. Although it is completely ruled out that actions will develop according to the Romanian scenario during the Nicolae Ceausescu, also cannot be completely ruled out.

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