Kazakhstan declares state of emergency amid fuel price protests

ALMATY, Kazakhstan – Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev accepted the government’s resignation on Wednesday, his office said after violent protests sparked by fuel price hikes rocked the oil-rich Central Asian country.

Police used tear gas and stun grenades late Tuesday to evict hundreds of demonstrators from the main square in Almaty, the largest city in the former Soviet republic.

The protests shook the image of the former Soviet republic as a politically stable and tightly controlled nation – with which it has driven hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign investment into its oil and metal industries during its three decades of independence.

Tokayev declared a state of emergency in Almaty and the oil-producing western Mangistau province early Wednesday, saying domestic and foreign provocateurs were behind the violence.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered the reintroduction of price controls on liquefied petroleum gas, a popular car fuel.Yevgeny Biyatov / AP

The protests began on Sunday in Mangistau province after the price caps on liquefied petroleum gas, a popular car fuel, were lifted the day before and the price more than doubled thereafter.

In a conversation with the incumbent cabinet members, Tokayev ordered them and the provincial governors to reintroduce price controls on LPG and to extend them to gasoline, diesel and other “socially important” consumer goods.

He also ordered that the government draft personal bankruptcy law and consider freezing utility prices and subsidizing rent payments for poor families.

He said the situation in the cities and towns hit by the protests had improved after the declaration of a state of emergency, which resulted in a curfew and restrictions on movement.

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