Situation update

  • Overnight on 04-05 January 2022 and through the morning, at least 5,000 people took to the streets of the commercial capital Almaty, the political capital Nur-Sultan, Aktau, and other cities to protest rising fuel prices and shortages. As the protests expanded, they grew more broadly antigovernmental in nature.
  • The unrest in Almaty turned violent, with protesters setting fire to the Akimat government building near Republic Square. Security forces used rubber bullets, tear gas, and flash grenades to attempt to clear protesters. At least 200 protesters and 100 police officers have been injured in the unrest in Almaty alone.
  • Reports indicate President Tokayev accepted the resignation of the Prime Minister along with government ministers.
  • There is now an internet blackout in Kazakhstan, along with disruptions to telephone services and several websites have been blocked as well. 
  • Protesters reportedly entered and occupied Almaty International Airport during afternoon hours local time on 05 January, prompting evacuation of airport staff. Passengers had been evacuated earlier in the day as a precaution.
  • Protesters reportedly entered and occupied Almaty International Airport during afternoon hours local time on 05 January, prompting evacuation of airport staff. Passengers had been evacuated earlier in the day as a precaution.
  • President Tokayev declared a state of emergency, which includes a 2300-0700 curfew, for Almaty and the Mangistau region, while a curfew is in effect for the capital Nur-Sultan. Both are set to last until at least 19 January. 
Context
  • What began on 02 January as relatively peaceful rallies against planned fuel price increases and walkouts by oil and gas workers has expanded and morphed into serious anti-government protests aimed at the corrupt leadership structure in Kazakhstan and poor economic conditions made worse by COVID-19. 
  • Despite being oil-rich, Kazakhstan grapples with fuel shortages and price hikes. Oil revenues have mostly served to enrich the family of former president Nursultan Nazarbaev, who continues to wield influence behind the scenes, and as the chairman of the Security Council, which controls all security functions in the state. 
  • Much of the focus of the anti-government protests is now on Nazarbaev. Shouts of "shal ket" ("old man go!") have been heard at many demonstrations. While the average monthly salary in Kazakhstan is around $575, Nazarbaev and his family have purchased some $800,000,000 worth of real estate in the U.S. and Europe, prompting the outrage now seen on the streets.
  • Considering the nearly unprecedented size of the protests, and the fact that they are leaderless and somewhat spontaneous in nature signals that further unrest is likely in the coming days and weeks, especially if the government cracks down hard or does not make good on assurances to halt fuel price hikes.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • As protests are likely to continue, reconsider travel to Kazakhstan until at least 19 January, once the state of emergency is set to expire. 
  • Those who remain in-country should prepare emergency supplies as disruptions are likely to continue to basic services.
  • Anticipate telecom disruptions or full blackouts for the next several days or weeks.
  • Avoid protest sites in major cities, including Almaty's Arena Stadium, and Astana and Republic Squares, and Nazarbayev and Abay Avenues and Zheltoksan and Timiryazev Streets, Kenesary Khan monument in Nur-Sultan, Arbat in Shymkent and local administrative offices (akimat) and energy infrastructure.

SUPPORT

Our team can respond with the following capabilities:  

  • Bespoke intelligence reports and briefings 
  • Security support
  • Emergency medical and tele-medical support
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  • Emergency evacuation

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