Crisis in Kazakhstan
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Context: A state of emergency has been declared in Kazakhstan and the government has officially stepped down following violent protests against a sharp and sudden increase in fuel prices.
What is current situation?
- To restore order in the main city Internet services were promptly shut off and messaging apps were banned.
- Russia has sent in troops under the Collective Security Treaty Organization , to assist security personnel in their efforts to restore order in the country.
- Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), is a Moscow lead military alliance, comprising Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
So, why are Kazakhs protesting?
- High LPG prices: Kazakhs were protesting after fuel prices doubled in the oil-rich Central Asian nation when the government lifted price caps for LPG, commonly used in vehicles.
- Protest quickly turned violent across the country and protesters demanded resignation of the government and lowering of LPG prices.
- Risk of Income inequality: Protesters are worried that jump in LPG prices could cause a steep increase in food prices and deepen the income inequality that has plagued the nation for decades.
- Inflation in the country is close to 9 percent due to covid-19 pandemic.
- Demands for democracy: There is discontent among Kazakhs over rising income inequality, which has worsened due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Its authoritarian government has been widely criticised over the years for violating fundamental freedoms.
- Anti-Nazarbayev sentiment : Country’s long-time Soviet-era leader Nursultan Nazarbayev was replaced by Tokayev, who is regarded as his hand-picked successor. Nazarbayev and his family, continued to enjoy a fair bit of power in the country.
How did the government respond to the protests?
- After declaring a state of emergency, Tokayev dismissed the country’s prime minister and his cabinet.
- He assured that authorities would soon bring down LPG prices to “ensure stability in the country”.
- Tokayev ordered government protection for foreign embassies and businesses owned by foreign companies.
- The National Bank of Kazakhstan had decided to suspend work of banks for the safety of their workers.
Concerns for neighbors’:
- The recent crisis has caused considerable concern in neighbouring Russia and China, both of which are key strategic partners of Kazakhstan.