Geopolitics

Kazakhstan, Russia, and why recent protests matter

Kazakhstan was suddenly awash in anti-government protests this week after a revolt over the price of fuel turned into something far more potent and powerful. Here’s everything you need to know:

What’s going on? Thousands of Kazakhs across the oil-rich nation have been protesting since Sunday, when the government, in an attempt at moving toward a market economy, lifted a price cap on a commonly-used type of gas. Citizens grew immediately incensed after prices essentially doubled overnight to approximately 100 tenge, or 22 cents, per liter.

The revolt is said to have initially begun with a 10,000-person protest in the oil town of Zhanaozen, the site of an infamous 2011 oil worker strike during which at least 15 were killed by the police. Backlash then continued to spread across the country, even though the government has since reimplemented the price controls.

Things escalated Wednesday, however, when protesters took over the airport in Almaty. Earlier that day, demonstrators stormed and torched the city’s main government building; the former presidential residence and the regional branch of the governing Nur Otan party were also set aflame, reports The New York Times. Almaty police say protesters burned “120 cars, including 33 police vehicles, and damaged about 400 businesses,” while the Internal Affairs Ministry reported the deaths of eight members of law enforcement (at the time, protesters had not released an equivalent injury or death report). Other demonstrators in Aktau, the capital of the Mangystau region, were also met with gunfire from police.

Meanwhile, the country found itself in a nationwide internet outage as of Tuesday night, conveniently “limiting press coverage, watchdog access and communications within and outside the country,” per NPR.

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Categories: Geopolitics

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