fredag 7. januar 2022

Kazakhstan's uprising was a long time coming, and it's an unwelcome distraction for Vladimir Putin

For drivers in western Kazakhstan, it was not a happy new year when January 1 brought a doubling in the price of liquid petroleum gas.  Only a few dozen people took to the streets in the city of Zhanaozen to protest, but within three days their anger was echoed by people across the vast resource-rich central Asian state, fed up with everything from unemployment and inflation to corruption. 

The security forces had the upper hand to begin with, vastly outnumbering those who braved arrest and sub-zero temperatures to protest. But by January 4, spontaneous unrest had engulfed Almaty, the largest city in this authoritarian former Soviet state. The government's promises to roll back the price increase and offer other economic support were too little and too late.

Now President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who took office in 2019, faces the choice of offering real political dialogue or opting for repression.