Kazakhstan declared a state of emergency on Wednesday after protests over a fuel price rise devolved into violence and protestors stormed government buildings.
The state of emergency was declared, according to Russian news agencies Interfax, TASS, and RIA Novosti, citing a declaration broadcast on Kazakh state television. In the epicenters of the rallies, the financial hub Almaty, the Mangystau region, and the capital Nur-Sultan, states of emergency had been proclaimed previously.
Earlier in the day, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev promised to take severe measures to stop fatal demonstrations that have become the country’s largest leadership challenge in decades.
The protests began over the weekend in western Kazakhstan over an increase in petrol prices, but swiftly spread across the nation, pulling thousands to the streets.
Both city hall and the president’s mansion in Almaty, the former capital, were set on fire by demonstrators on Wednesday, according to Interfax.
In a nationwide speech, Tokayev declared, “I intend to act as harshly as possible.” Law enforcement officers were slain in the line of duty, he claimed, blaming the demonstrations on “financially motivated conspirators.”
Some demonstrators demanded that the country’s first president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled the country for nearly three decades, hand over the reins of power and choose Tokayev as his successor in 2019.
Tokayev, who lives in the capital Nur-Sultan, originally tried to satisfy demonstrators by putting six-month price ceilings on motor fuels and accepted the resignation of his cabinet. He also imposed a state of emergency in and around Almaty, Nur-Sultan, and the oil-rich Mangystau area, but the measures were ineffective in reducing tensions.
Tokayev also claimed that he will succeed Nazarbayev as chairman of the Security Council and promised to remain in the capital “whatever happens.”
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev separately on Wednesday about the upheaval in Kazakhstan, according to the Belarusian news service Belta.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin, stated that Kazakhstan could address its own problems and that no foreign interference was necessary.