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Kazakh President Accepts Resignation Of Government Amid Widespread Protests.

ALMATY – Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has accepted the resignation of the government after a third day of unrest in the Central Asian country touched off by a steep rise in energy prices.
A presidential decree published on January 5 says Toqaev accepted the resignation of the government "in accordance with Article 70 of the Republic of Kazakhstan.” It appointed the current first deputy prime minister, Alikhan Smailov, as interim prime minister.
Current members of the government will continue their duties until a new government is formed, the decree said. Separate orders from the president appointed Murat Nurtileu to the position of first deputy chairman of the National Security Committee and relieved Krymbek Kusherbaev from the post of secretary of state.
Toqaev earlier signed a decree to institute a state of emergency in the Almaty and Mangystau regions and Zhanaozen through January 19.
In a video address to the nation on January 4, Toqaev said the government would not fall and said it wanted “mutual trust and dialogue rather than conflict." His appeal came shortly after reports of security forces using stun grenades as hundreds of protesters tried to storm the mayor's office in the country's biggest city, Almaty, late on January 4.
Explosions could be heard coming from the vicinity of the city's main square where the mayor's office is located, video uploaded to social media indicated.
Police officers used tear gas to disperse protesters on the square after several police cars were torched.
The head of the Almaty city administration, Bakytzhan Sagintaev, issued a statement early on January 5 saying that the situation in Almaty was under control. “Law enforcement forces are taking necessary measures to stabilize the situation, maintain security, peace, and tranquility in Almaty,” the statement from Sagintaev’s press office said, according to TASS. Earlier, Kazakh police detained RFE/RL journalists who were covering the protests.

RFE/RL Kazakh language service editor Darkhan Umirbekov was detained at a demonstration in Nur-Sultan on January 4 just hours after officers briefly held Kasym Amanzhol, the acting Almaty bureau chief of RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service, known locally as Azattyk, as he filmed the third consecutive day of protests.
Umirbekov was released after being interrogated by police for four and a half hours. RFE/RL President Jamie Fly had called for Umirbekov’s release, saying in a statement that both journalists had been providing an important public service by covering the demonstrations. Protests erupted in the western Kazakh region of Mangystau on January 2 over a sudden, dramatic hike in prices for liquefied natural gas (LNG) used in vehicles. The protests then spread to cities and towns across the country. In the evening on January 4, the government announced it was restoring the price cap of 50 tenge ($0.11) per liter, or less than half the market price, in Mangystau. Earlier on January 4, hundreds of people calling for lower gas prices and for the government to resign gathered in the central squares of Zhanaozen and Aktau, the regional administrative center for Mangystau, after demonstrators spent their second night in the area.
Smaller rallies were held in the northern city of Aktobe, Shymkent in the south, Oral in the west, in support of the protesters in Mangystau and voice discontent over issues such as corruption, unemployment, and low wages. In an attempt to calm demonstrators, Toqaev announced that a government commission that includes members of his administration has started working in Aktau to “find a mutually acceptable solution to the problem that has arisen in the interests of stability in our country.”

With reporting by TASS

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