Internet Ordered Shut Off In Nation After Riots Lead To Government Resigning

( )- Protesters in Kazakhstan’s largest city stormed the presidential residence and the mayor’s office on Wednesday, setting fire to both. As the protests escalated, the government resigned and the country experienced a pervasive internet blackout.

At the request of Kazakhstan’s president, on Thursday, a Russian-led military alliance said it was dispatching peacekeeping forces to the region to regain control.

The protests were sparked by a rise in fuel prices in the Central Asian nation. Police have clashed with protesters in recent days, deploying water cannons, firing both tear gas and concussion grenades.

According to the Kazakh Interior Ministry, eight police officers and national guard members were killed in the riots and over 300 were injured. The Interior Ministry did not release any figures on civilian casualties or deaths.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev asked for assistance from the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Moscow-based alliance of six former Soviet states. Within hours, the CSTO’s council approved the deployment of peacekeepers.

Tokayev has blamed “terrorist bands” for leading the unrest and accused other countries of providing them assistance.

Early on in the unrest, Tokayev vowed to use harsh measures to quell the violent demonstrations and put Kazakhstan under a two-week state of emergency. And in response to the unrest, the government resigned.

Kazakh news sites became inaccessible late Wednesday. According to Netblocks, a global watchdog organization, the entire country was experiencing a pervasive internet blackout. The Russian news outlet Tass reported that internet access was restored in Kazakhstan’s largest city Almaty by Thursday morning.

While the protests began over the skyrocketing gas prices, the speed with which they spread reflects a deeper discontent with the Kazakh ruling government which has controlled the country since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Many of the protesters were shouting “old man go,” apparently referring to Nursultan Nazarbayev, the country’s first president who, despite resigning in 2019, still wields enormous influence over the government.

After the government resigned last week, President Tokayev said the ministers would remain in place until a new Cabinet is formed, leading some to believe that the resignations will have little impact.