Kazakhstan unrest: Internet cut amid fuel protests
Internet access has been cut in Kazakhstan amid mass protests sparked by rising fuel prices.
Anti-government protesters in the main city, Almaty, stormed the mayor’s office on Wednesday. Part of the building appeared to be on fire.
Protests have also erupted in several other cities, with security forces using tear gas and stun grenades.
The president has promised a tough response, calling the protests a “black period” in the country’s history.
“As president, I am obliged to protect the safety and peace of our citizens, to worry about the integrity of Kazakhstan,” Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said in a TV address. He called the protesters “plotters” who were “financially motivated”.
Internet services in the country have been disrupted since Tuesday. By Wednesday, internet monitoring group NetBlocks reported that Kazakhstan was “in the midst of a nation-scale internet blackout”.
It came as thousands of people took to the streets, despite a state of emergency in the capital Nur-Sultan, in Almaty, and in the western province of Mangistau.
In Almaty, protesters gathered at the mayor’s office before eventually storming it. Videos on social media showed a plume of smoke rising from the building, while gunfire could also be heard.
The city’s police chief, Kanat Taimerdenov, said “extremists and radicals” had attacked 500 civilians and ransacked hundreds of businesses.
Water cannon was used against protesters in the western city of Aktobe. There are reports that security forces have sided with protesters in some places.
The demonstrations started in the west of Kazakhstan on Sunday, before spreading across the country.
They began when the government lifted the price cap on liquefied petroleum gas, which many people use to power their cars. Its price quickly doubled in a matter of days.
On Tuesday, the president dismissed the government and said lower fuel prices would be restored, but the announcement has not brought an end to the protests.
Dissent and protests are uncommon in Kazakhstan, which declared independence in 1991 amid the collapse of the Soviet Union.
However, the town of Zhanaozen, in Mangistau province, was the scene of deadly unrest in 2011. At least 14 oil workers were killed in a police crackdown on a protest over pay and working conditions. The town has also been one of the main centres of the latest unrest.