What is happening in Kazakhstan? Understand everything in four questions

The situation remains tense in Kazakhstan, where dozens of people, including twelve police officers, have been killed, and several thousand injured, in the riots that have rocked the country since Sunday, January 2, after a sharp rise in the price of liquefied petroleum gas. (LPG).

It was in the streets of Almaty, the economic capital of the country, that the scenes were the most violent. The state of emergency was declared throughout the territory on Wednesday by President Kasym-Jomart Tokayev, a few hours after the announcement of the government’s resignation while Internet access was suspended in the territory.

Russian troops were called in as reinforcements, at the request of Kazakhstan: Russia and the other members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, all former members of the USSR) announced on Thursday morning the dispatch of a “collective peacekeeping force”.

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  • Where did this movement start from?

Of the five Central Asian republics that became independent with the disappearance of the USSR, Kazakhstan is by far the largest and richest nation, notably thanks to its oil deposits. Wealth is, however, not well distributed in the country, where the average monthly salary is a little over 500 euros and where corruption appears to be rampant.

But Kazakhstan had never known such riots since its independence. The deletion on 1is January, the ceiling of the price of liquefied petroleum gas, the most widely used fuel in the country (between 70% and 90% of vehicles run on LPG, report it Washington Post), seems to have been the spark that started it all, as the price of LPG quickly doubled. Especially since, as Agence France-Presse (AFP) points out, since LPG is the main source of fuel for cars, “Any increase in its price leads to that of food products, already on the rise since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

It’s in Janaozen, in the western region of Manguistaou rich in petroleum resources, that the first demonstrations took place, in the weekend. In this city, in 2011, fourteen workers at an oil site strikers were killed during the police crackdown on a demonstration against working conditions and wages. The movement then spread to the large regional town of Aktau on the shores of the Caspian Sea, before spreading to the rest of the country.

  • What happened on Wednesday January 5?

As early as Tuesday evening, AFP reported firing of stun grenades and tear gas by the police in an attempt to disperse a large demonstration which brought together several thousand people in Almaty, the economic capital, which is in the east of the country. Overnight, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared a state of emergency in Almaty and Manguistaou province for two weeks, as nearly 5,000 demonstrators chanted slogans against the government and former President Nursultan Nazarbayev , mentor of the current leader and still very influential.

Hours later, the president accepted the government’s resignation, as the town hall and presidential residence in Almaty were partially burned down and protesters briefly captured the city’s airport.

Over the days, the demands of the demonstrators have evolved: in addition to protesting against the rise in LPG prices, they are now asking to be able to directly elect the country’s regional officials, for the moment appointed by the president, note it New York Times : “In short, they are asking for the ousting of the political forces which have ruled the country without any real opposition since the country’s independence in 1991.”

The president then promised a “firm” response: “Groups of criminal elements beat our soldiers, humiliate them, drag them naked in the streets, attack women, loot shops. As Head of State and from today President of the Security Council, I intend to act in the strongest possible way. ” The state of emergency was expanded nationwide, as the president called for help from Russia and its allies, blaming the riots on “Terrorists” trained abroad.

  • How was the Internet cut?

Kazakhstan deactivated, from Tuesday, entire sections of its Internet network. According to Netblocks, an organization that tracks and studies network outages, and Cloudflare, a company specialized in Internet infrastructure, it is first of all the mobile Internet network, very important in the country, which has been severely disrupted. According to journalists and activists on site, the use of Telegram, Signal and WhatsApp mobile messaging systems had been difficult for several days.

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At around 6.30 p.m. Wednesday, an outright blocking was applied to the entire Internet network in the country, fixed and mobile. This Internet cut also affected the official sites of the Kazakh state, some of which are still inaccessible from abroad today.

A brief upturn took place at the very end of the day on Wednesday, according to Netblocks and Russian news agency Tass, especially in Almaty. This relaxation came as Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was giving a televised speech. Quickly, the total blockage was restored.

Kazakhstan is part of the long list of countries which, in recent years, have undertaken to disrupt, or even cut off altogether, access to the Internet in order to cope with internal protests. The aim is both to disorganize the latter, by depriving them of the means to communicate and coordinate, but also to limit the flow of information outside the country.

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  • What has been happening since Thursday?

As the American news agency AP reminds us, if there have already been major demonstrations in the country, as in 2019, after the election of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kazakhstan has never experienced such a situation and it’s hard to predict what the future holds for this Central Asian country. The president seemed inclined to launch reforms in his appeals to the Kazakh people: on Thursday, the government announced that it had capped the sale price of fuels for six months and the president introduced a series of emergency measures. But AP notes that his last remarks at the end of the day suggested a more repressive response.

The situation is all the more confused as it is complicated to have a complete vision, journalists and witnesses can no longer be reached either by Internet or by telephone.

On Thursday, neighboring Russia and its allies of the Collective Security Treaty Organization announced the dispatch of a “Collective peacekeeping force”. France, she called ” all parties “ to the “Moderation”, just like the United States and the European Union.

In addition, these riots indirectly caused an 8% rise in uranium prices, note Bloomberg, which recalls that Kazakhstan is the main world supplier and produces 40% of the uranium in the world.

The Internet suspension has had another effect on bitcoin, since Kazakhstan is the second “producer” of this cryptocurrency. In the space of a few hours, production fell by 12%.

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What is happening in Kazakhstan? Understand everything in four questions

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