Kazakhstan government resigns as violent protests over fuel price hikes rock country

A police car on fire as riot police prepare to stop protesters in the center of Almaty, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022. Demonstrators denouncing the doubling of prices for liquefied gas have clashed with police in Kazakhstan's largest city and held protests in about a dozen other cities in the country. Local news reports said police dispersed a demonstration of about a thousand people Tuesday night in Almaty and that some demonstrators were detained. (AP Photo/Vladimir Tretyakov). Vladimir Tretyakov/AP

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev accepted the government’s resignation on Wednesday, his office said, after violent protests triggered by a fuel price increase rocked the oil-rich Central Asian country.

Police used tear gas and stun grenades late on Tuesday to drive hundreds of protesters out of the main square in Almaty, the former Soviet republic’s biggest city, and clashes went on for hours in nearby areas.

The protests shook the former Soviet republic’s image as a politically stable and tightly-controlled nation — which it has used to attract hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign investment into its oil and metals industries over three decades of independence.

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

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The protests began in Mangistau province on Sunday following the lifting of price caps on liquefied petroleum gas, a popular car fuel, a day earlier, after which its price more than doubled.

Speaking to acting cabinet members on Wednesday, Tokayev ordered them and provincial governors to reinstate LPG price controls and broaden them to gasoline, diesel and other “socially important” consumer goods.

He also ordered the government to develop a personal bankruptcy law and consider freezing utilities’ prices and subsidising rent payments for poor families.

He said the situation was improving in protest-hit cities and towns after the state of emergency was declared which effected a curfew and movement restrictions.

(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Kim Coghill, Robert Birsel and Michael Perry)

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