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Kazakh president vows ‘tough’ response to violent protests

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has vowed a strong response to violence seen during ongoing nationwide protests on Wednesday. Tokayev added he has assumed the post of the head of the country’s Security Council.

“As the head of state and from now on as the chief of the Security Council, I intend to act as tough as possible,” Tokayev stated.

The post was previously held by former president, and the country’s long-time leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The president has placed the blame for the ongoing unrest on unnamed “financially motivated plotters.” He claimed that the “hooligans” storming administrative buildings were “highly organized.” The violence has already left multiple law enforcement officers injured or dead, Tokayev added.

Kazakhstan is enduring a wave of mass protests, triggered by a sharp hike in liquefied petroleum gas prices at the start of the new year. The government believed that subsidizing the price was no longer sustainable, a move which led to a rapid two-fold increase. The unrest, which began in the country’s south-west, has spilled over into other regions, including the most populous city of Almaty. The demonstrations have grown increasingly violent over the past day, with reports of rioters attacking police, setting police cars on fire, and committing arson on government buildings.

Notably, the crowds on Wednesday breached the presidential residence in Almaty, setting it on fire. While the building has not been used as the actual residence of the country’s leader since 1997, when the capital was moved to the city of Nur-Sultan (formerly known as Astana), it retains its official status.

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