Kazakhstan Reportedly Hit By Internet Blackout As Oil-Rich Nation Breaks Out In Rare Anti-Government Protests

Topline

Kazakhstan has reportedly been hit with a nationwide internet blackout, according to web monitoring group NetBlocks, disrupting communications as rare anti-government protests sparked by increasing fuel prices continue to rock the oil-rich nation and extend into a fourth day.

Key Facts

Kazakhstan is reportedly facing a nationwide internet blackout after a day of partial restrictions, blocked messaging apps and disruptions to mobile internet, according to data from NetBlocks.

The group said the outage is “likely to limit the public’s ability to express political discontent and communicate freely” and will “severely limit coverage of escalating anti-government protests,” a rare event in a country as tightly controlled as Kazakhstan.

The government resigned Wednesday following the unrest and President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared states of emergency in the capital Nur-Sultan, former capital Almaty and the oil-rich province of Mangistau.

The measures have reportedly done little to calm tensions, however, and there are reports of large crowds gathering in major cities.  

Key Background

Dissent in the tightly controlled Central Asian nation is unusual and has been described as the country’s largest since the fall of the Soviet Union. The protests began in western, oil-rich regions of the country over the government’s decision to lift price caps on liquefied petroleum gas—the government said the caps were unsustainable—which many use as fuel for cars. The protests eventually filtered across the country and into cities and escalated into a wider call for political change. The protests mark a significant test for Tokayev, who took office in 2019 as the handpicked successor of Nursultan Nazarbayev. Nazarbayev governed Kazakhstan since its independence in 1989 and still exerts significant control as chairman of the country’s security council and as “Leader of the Nation.” 

Further Reading

Kazakhstan Declares State of Emergency as Protests Over Fuel Prices Spread (NYT)

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