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Kazakhstan restores some fuel price caps after rare protests spread

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By Reuters
Protests erupt in Kazakhstan after fuel price rise
Protests erupt in Kazakhstan after fuel price rise   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2022

ALMATY -Kazakhstan announced late on Tuesday it was restoring some price caps on liquefied petroleum gas, after rare protests reached the main city Almaty following a sharp rise in the price of the fuel at the start of the year.

Many Kazakhs have converted their cars to run on LPG, long far cheaper than gasoline as a vehicle fuel in Kazakhstan because of price caps. But the government argued that the low price was unsustainable and lifted the caps on Jan. 1.

After the price of the fuel swiftly spiked, rallies involving thousands of people erupted on Jan. 2 in the town of Zhanaozen, an oil hub and site of deadly clashes between protesters and police a decade ago.

Demonstrations spread to other parts of surrounding Mangistau province and western Kazakhstan, including provincial centre Aktau and a worker camp used by subcontractors of Kazakhstan’s biggest oil producer, Tengizchevroil. The Chevron-led venture said output had not been affected.

In Almaty, police cordoned off the main square on Monday and Tuesday, and local media reported that dozens of people were detained late on Tuesday as protesters blocked a busy street. Mobile internet was jammed in the downtown area.

On Tuesday evening the government announced it was restoring the price cap of 50 tenge ($0.11) per litre, or less than half the market price, in Mangistau province.

Public protests are illegal in Kazakhstan unless their organisers file a notice in advance. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the hand-picked successor of Soviet-era Communist boss Nursultan Nazarbayev who stepped down in 2019, faces no political opposition in parliament.

Tokayev said on Twitter on Tuesday that he would hold a government meeting the following day to discuss protesters’ demands. He urged protesters to behave responsibly.