Kazakhstan’s president attempted to calm the situation in his country on Tuesday, as protests about rising gas prices erupted, unusual occurrences in this authoritarian Central Asian state.
Demonstrators in the town of Janaozen, in the heart of a petroleum-rich area in the country’s west, took to the streets over the weekend, enraged by a price hike in liquefied natural gas (LNG). The movement extended to Aktau, a big regional city on the Caspian Sea’s coast.
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said on Twitter on Tuesday that a government committee in Aktau had “started functioning” and included members of his staff.
“The commission is instructed to find a mutually acceptable solution to the problem raised, in the interest of the stability of the country,” he said.
Mr. Tokayev nevertheless warned against “disturbances to public order”, calling on the demonstrators to “show responsibility and willingness to dialogue”.
Images on social media showed police surrounding protesters in Aktau on Monday evening.
In the evening, the authorities announced to concede a reduction in the price of LNG by setting it at 50 tenge (0.1 euro) per liter in the region.
This promise has not resulted in the dispersal of the demonstrators, who have set up tents according to local media, and demand to be able to speak to President Kasym-Jomart Tokayev.
Janaozen has in the past been the scene of the deadliest unrest that has rocked Kazakhstan since its independence from the USSR in 1991. In 2011, at least 14 striking oil workers were killed when police cracked down on a demonstration against working conditions and wages.
Tokayev, in power since 2019, was chosen as successor by historic leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, 81, who ruled Kazakhstan for thirty years from 1989 and retains influence.