Kazakhstan’s president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev addressed his unrest-gripped Central Asian nation on Wednesday, vowing a “tough” response to mass protests over a New Year energy price hike. Ex-Soviet Kazakhstan has been roiled by protests since the start of the year that saw demonstrators earlier Wednesday storm government buildings and authorities cut internet and mobile phone access nationwide in response.
Tokayev addressed the country for a second time since the protests began, assuring Kazakhs that he has no plans to step down from his post after he sacked his cabinet earlier Wednesday.
“As president, I am obliged to protect the safety and peace of our citizens, to worry about the integrity of Kazakhstan,” he said in Russian on Kazakh television.
He said that the country had seen “massive attacks on law enforcement officers” and claimed that at least several had been “killed” or “wounded”.
“Crowds of bandit elements are beating up servicemen, mocking them, leading them naked through the streets, abusing women, robbing shops,” he claimed.
“As head of state and from today onwards as chairman of the security council, I intend to act as tough as possible,” Tokayev said.
“Together we will overcome this black period in the history of Kazakhstan.”
Tokayev was handpicked by Kazakhstan’s founding president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who stepped down in 2019.
But Nazerbayev had retained control over the country, until now as chairman of the security council, and as “Leader of the Nation” — a constitutional role that affords him unique policy-making privileges as well as immunity from prosecution.