The presidential palace caught fire and the airport was seized as protests over fuel prices in Kazakhstan escalate



Protesters today stormed the presidential residence and the mayor’s office in Kazakhstan’s largest city and set fire to both buildings as demonstrations triggered by a rise in fuel prices escalated sharply.

The police shot against some protesters at the Presidential Palace in Almaty. They have repeatedly clashed with protesters in recent days, deploying water cannons, tear gas and concussion grenades.

Protesters also took control of Almaty airport, resulting in the cancellation of flights.

The government resigned in response to the unrest, and President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev promised to take tough measures to quell it.

Apparently, Tokayev tried to calm the public anger and fired Nazarbayev as head of the National Security Council on Wednesday and took it over himself. He also appointed a new head of the State Security Committee, successor to the Soviet KGB, and removed Nazarbayev’s nephew from No. 2 on the committee.

In the midst of the unrest, the president gave a televised speech in which he appealed to a Russian-led security bloc to help Kazakhstan overcome what he called a “terrorist threat.”

He said what he described as foreign-trained terrorist gangs seized buildings, infrastructure and weapons.

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He told how they had taken control of Almaty airport and five planes there, including foreign planes.

“It’s actually no longer a threat, it’s an undermining of the integrity of the state, and most importantly, it’s an attack on our citizens asking me … to help them as soon as possible,” Tokayev said.

“Almaty was attacked, destroyed, vandalized, the people of Almaty fell victim to attacks by terrorists, bandits, therefore it is our duty … to take all possible measures to protect our state.”

Tokayev said he had appealed to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance between Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Kazakh news sites became inaccessible late Wednesday, and the global watchdog organization Netblocks said the country was experiencing a sweeping internet blackout.

Although the protests began over an almost doubling of the prices of a type of liquefied gas that is widely used as a fuel for vehicles, the size and rapid spread of the unrest suggest that they reflect wider dissatisfaction in the country, which has been under the rule of same. party since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Eight police and National Guard soldiers were killed and 317 wounded, the Interior Ministry said.

The White House called for calm and restraint Kazakhstan, the ninth largest country in the world, borders Russia to the north and China to the east and has extensive oil reserves that make it strategically and economically important.

Despite these reserves and mineral wealth, dissatisfaction with poor living conditions is strong in some parts of the country.

Many Kazakhs also gnaw at the dominance of the ruling party, which holds more than 80 percent of the seats in parliament.

A few hours after thousands of protesters gathered outside the presidential residence in Almaty, the Russian news agency Tass reported that it was on fire and that protesters, some with firearms, were trying to break into it.

The police fled the home after shooting against protesters, according to the report filed from Kazakhstan.

Many of the protesters who met at the mayor’s office wore clubs and shields, according to previous reports in Kazakh media. Tass later said the building was engulfed in flames

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