At the beginning of the year 2022, rallies broke out in the oil-producing Mangystau region in the west of Kazakhstan. Hundreds of people are protesting for a third day in a raw against the sudden hike in prices for liquefied natural gas (LNG). The protests spread to the neighboring Atyrau and West Kazakhstan regions, as well as to the capital Nur-Sultan.
Some protesters shouted claims to dismiss the president and change the government.
The price per liter of LNG jumped up to 120 tenge (28 U.S. cents) at gas stations in Mangystau at the start of this year, compared to 50-60 tenge (12-14 cents) in 2021.
According to the Ministry of Energy of Kazakhstan, since January 1, prices have been formed on electronic exchange trading based on supply and demand.
Roads leading to the city of Zhanaozen have been closed by the authorities. In Almaty, Kazakhstan’s biggest city, Republic Square was closed to the public and access to mobile Internet connection was limited.
The police confirmed the detainment of several protestors. According to opposition sources their number was at least 20 detainees.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ordered to create a special commission that includes members of the Presidential Administration to study the situation.
On January 4, members of the government commission met with activists in the Kazakh city of Aktau. They guaranteed the protesters that they would not be held accountable for participating in the protest.
“At the meeting, the decisions made during negotiations with the initiative group of Aktau city were announced, namely, on reducing the cost of liquefied gas and setting the price at 50 tenge ($0.11. – Editor’s note) per liter in the Mangystau region as part of the social responsibility of the national company “Kazmunaygas”, – the statement reads.
Kazakhstan faced a similar wave of protests a decade ago. In 2011, the city of Zhanaozen was the scene of mass rallies over pay and working conditions and the president as well. They claimed the lives of at least 16 of protesters.
In 2011, the information support of the protests was provided through media outlets and social media managed from the territory of Ukraine and Turkey. Whether today’s protests are another attempt to spread chaos in Central Asia will be seen in the near future.