Kazakhstan government resigns amid nationwide protests

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President signs decree accepting government’s resignation effective immediately.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev accepted the government’s resignation Wednesday in a presidential decree after a wave of mass protests swept the country over rising liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) prices.

“In accordance with Article 70 of the Republic of Kazakhstan, I hereby resolve to accept the resignation of the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan,” Tokayev said in the decree.

According to the decree, First Deputy Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov has been appointed interim prime minister, Russian media outlet RT reported. Although the decree is effective immediately, the members of the Cabinet are expected to continue their duties until a new government is formed.

As protests spread across the country earlier in the day, Tokayev declared a state of emergency in the city of Almaty and the oil-rich Mangystau region in the west between Jan. 5-19 to maintain public security. He also imposed a curfew in Almaty, the country’s former capital, where thousands of people had taken to the streets.

While police used stun grenades and teargas to disperse the protestors, they responded with stones. Clashes were also reported between the police and demonstrators as well as the vandalizing and torching of police cars by protestors​​​​​​​.

The government has also restricted access to social media applications including Facebook and Telegram.

The protests broke out on Jan. 2 when drivers held demonstrations against an increase in LPG prices in the city of Zhanaozen in Mangystau, which later spread to Aktau city.

Supportive protests in the western cities of Atyrau, Aktobe and Oral, where the country’s petroleum and natural gas reserves are located, spread to other corners of Kazakhstan to turn into public demonstrations.