Demonstrators angered by rising fuel prices have stormed the mayor’s office in Kazakhstan’s largest city and attempted to break into the presidential residence, according to local news reports, as intensifying protests led the Central Asian country’s government to resign.
Many of the protesters who converged on the mayoral office in Almaty carried clubs and shields, and flames were seen coming from the building, according to the reports, but it was unclear how extensive the fire was. Meanwhile, thousands massed outside the presidential residence in the city. A fire at the city prosecutor’s office was also reported.
Dozens of police vehicles were set on fire or vandalised in the city, reports said.
On Wednesday afternoon, many Kazakh news sites became inaccessible and the global internet monitor Netblocks said the country was experiencing a widespread internet blackout.
Despite the government’s resignation, all ministers will remain in their posts until a new Cabinet is formed — and it remained unclear if the move would result in policy changes or have any effect on the growing protests.
The demonstrations against a sharp increase in prices for liquefied gas — used by many to fuel their cars— began this week in the country’s west and have spread across the country.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared a state of emergency in Almaty, imposing an overnight curfew and limiting access to the city. He later imposed a state of emergency for two weeks in the capital, Nur-Sultan.
At the start of the year, prices for liquefied gas roughly doubled as the government moved away from price controls. Although Kazakhstan has extensive gas and oil reserves and mineral wealth, discontent over poor living conditions is strong in some parts of the country. Many Kazakhs also chafe at the dominance of the ruling party, which holds more than 80% of the seats in parliament.