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Kazakhstan is experiencing its worst civil unrest since independence

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Dozens of people in Kazakstan have been killed and thousands detained this week after violent protests broke out in the nation. On 5 January, protesters stormed government buildings, the country’s largest airport and set fire to the city’s main administration office. The protests have continued since.  

A nationwide state of emergency was declared on 5 January, with the unrest described as the worst violence in the nation since its independence in the 1990s. 

Why is there unrest? 

The unrest is a result of a combination of issues. The protest was initially sparked by a significant rise in fuel prices, however, turned into a wider protest that was also about overall civilian discontent with the government, poverty and unemployment. Deputy Director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center  Melinda Haring described: “This story is not about the price of gas. This story is about power. It’s about inequality, and it’s about a lack of political choice.”

Earlier this week, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered security personnel to open fire on protesters, labelling them “terrorists” and “militants”. Tokayev said, “I have given the order to law enforcement agencies and the army to shoot to kill without warning.”​ He further added, “those who don’t surrender will be eliminated.”

Hours after the state of emergency was declared, Tokayev accepted the resignation of the government and appointed an acting Prime Minister. 

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