Kazakhstan: Presidential palace set alight and airport seized as fuel protests spiral out of control
President pleads for help from Russia-led security bloc as government resigns and police clash with protesters
Protesters stormed the presidential palace and mayor’s office in Kazakhstan’s largest city today and set them on fire, as demonstrations sparked by a rise in fuel prices escalated out of control.
Police fired on protesters at the presidential palace in Almaty, and flights were cancelled and staff fled as the city’s airport was taken over by demonstrators.
Security forces have already deployed water cannon, tear gas and concussion grenades against protesters.
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The government resigned in response to the unrest and President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev vowed to take harsh measures to quell it.
Apparently seeking to appease public ire, Mr Tokayev sacked his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev as head of the national Security Council on Wednesday, and took it over himself. He also appointed a new head of the State Security Committee, successor to the Soviet-era KGB, and removed Mr Nazarbayev’s nephew from the No. 2 position on the committee.
Much of the anger on the streets seems to have been aimed at Mr Nazarbayev. Protesters had been heard chanting Mr Nazarbayev’s name, while a video showing people attempting to pull down a giant bronze statue of the former leader has been shared online.
Protesters gathered at the mayor’s office in Almaty before storming it. Videos on social media showed smoke rising from the building, while gunfire could be heard.https://35e16fa4a99f6ceae97bdbcd1422a4a0.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
The president made a televised speech in which he appealed to a Russia-led security bloc to assist Kazakhstan in overcoming what he called a “terrorist threat”.
He claimed what he described as foreign-trained terrorist gangs were seizing buildings, infrastructure and weapons.
He said the airport in Almaty had been taken over, as well as five aircraft , including foreign planes.
“It is actually no longer a threat, it is an undermining of the integrity of the state and most importantly it is an attack on our citizens who are asking me… to help them urgently,” Tokayev claimed.
“Almaty was attacked, destroyed, vandalised, the residents of Almaty became victims of attacks by terrorists, bandits, therefore it is our duty… to take all possible actions to protect our state.”
Mr Tokayev said he had appealed to the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), a military alliance of Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
Kazakh news sites became inaccessible late on Wednesday and the global watchdog organisation Netblocks said the country was experiencing a pervasive internet blackout.