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FLASH ALERT: VIOLENT PROTESTS IN KAZAKHSTAN AFTER RISING FUEL PRICES

Team: Yechezkel Mehlman, Marco Parks, Akshat Sharma, Alberto Suarez Sutil, CENTCOM Team; Martyna Dobrowolska, Pètra van de Gevel, Iris Raith, EUCOM Team

Cassandra Townsend, Clea Guastavino, Senior Editors

Week of: Monday, January 3, 2022


Kazakhstan protests[1]

The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT in the aftermath of the Kazakhstan government resignation following violent protests on rising fuel prices. This situation comes after a two-week state of emergency was declared on January 5, 2022. Since the declaration of the state of emergency, Jomart Tokayev, Kazakh President, has accepted the resignation of the government. The protests will very likely continue to be violent, very likely resulting in clashes between security forces and anti-government rioters, almost certainly increasing the number of deaths. Protests will likely occur in other countries, such as Russia and Turkey, as gas prices have been increasing elsewhere in recent months.[2]


CTG is on HIGH alert following the Kazakh government’s resignation due to continuing protests in Kazakhstan, as well as for the potential occurrence of protests in Russia and Turkey. There is a HIGH PROBABILITY for increased violence and deaths during protests in the next few days. There will very likely be a shift in the decisions the government makes following these protests, impacting the functionality and governmental processes currently in place. The decision to deploy a Russian-led peacekeeping force very likely indicates Russia’s disagreement with unrest in its sphere of influence.


On Wednesday, January 5, 2022, unrest broke out in western Kazakhstan, an oil-rich area, following an increase in fuel prices.[3] The protests migrated to Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, and the capital, Nur-Sultan.[4] The protests began when the Kazakh government removed price controls on liquified petroleum gas (LPG) on January 1, 2022, resulting in the price of fuel doubling between January 2 and January 4, 2022.[5] Thousands of people began protesting this decision, demanding lower fuel prices, which led to the resignation of Prime Minister Askar Mamin’s government on Wednesday, January 5, 2022.[6] The protests caused President Jomart Tokayev to declare a state of emergency for two weeks, lasting until January 19, 2022.[7] The state of emergency will restrict movement, including transportation in various cities, and ban mass gatherings across Kazakhstan.[8] The state of emergency also includes a curfew from 2300-0700 local time.[9]


Protesters have breached various government buildings, such as the Almaty International Airport, and caused fires in the Almaty City Hall and presidential residence.[10] Reports of internet outages throughout the area are very likely to enable the government to act with greater impunity, and impede protesters’ ability to communicate, organize, and challenge the government.[11] Since January 5, 2022, eight police officers and National Guard personnel have been killed in the protests, while 317 officers and National Guard personnel have been injured.[12] More than 200 people have been detained.[13] On January 5, 2022, President Tokayev requested assistance from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance consisting of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, to help settle the unrest.[14] Since Prime Minister Mamin resigned, President Tokayev announced that the price cap on fuel would be reintroduced for 180 days as a temporary fix; however, this has yet to decrease the unrest.[15]


Since the start of the unrest on January 5, 2022, more than 1000 people have been reported wounded, with roughly 400 hospitalized and 62 in critical condition.[16] Protests will very likely grow into a large political protest against the Kazakh government as it is very likely the protests did not only start due to increasing fuel prices, but also due to years of social grievances against the Kazakh authoritarian government, which Kazakh citizens view as corrupt.[17] Protests and violence are likely to spread through Mangistau province and the rest of the country, decreasing residents' safety.

Even if the Kazakh government decides to lower fuel prices, anti-government protesters will very likely continue protesting governmental corruption and abuse of power. Protesters will very likely call for a new government. Russia will very likely not tolerate anti-government protests in Kazakhstan, as it poses a threat to Russian influence in the region, and will almost certainly use its security forces to halt this development.

There is a roughly even chance of oil and LPG production being halted due to the violent protests, which will very likely result in an increase of prices. This is likely to cause oil and LPG shortages in the winter season, which will likely result in deaths due to extremely cold temperatures and lack of fuel to heat homes. Halts in production and increases in prices are very likely to contribute to further protests across Kazakhstan. President Tokayev seems to be working to appease citizens with measures such as the regulation of the LPG, diesel, and other consumer goods.[18] President Tokayev became head of the Security Council on January 5, 2022, taking the position from former President Nazarbayev, who until then held that post.[19] Introducing further caps on consumer goods will likely result in diesel and LPG companies resisting these changes. It is likely that Exxon Mobil and Chevron, who have invested in Kazakh oilfields, will cease funding.[20] Both companies are very likely to perceive price regulations on LPG and diesel as limiting oil and LPG output, which would likely result in decreased profit for both companies.


Since the protests have broadened to mass opposition against President Tokayev, his immediate conduct following the resignation of the cabinet will likely have a direct and lasting impact on how the government works with the population. The government will likely work closer with the population to resolve issues before they become conflicts, such as listening to people's demands over reducing the price of LPG. In order to remain in office, elected officials will likely pay closer attention to the population's needs.


The Kazakh government’s resignation coupled with violent protests due to social grievances will very likely result in political instability, likely decreasing the population’s trust in the government. This will likely result in less civilian amenability to government appeasement, less tolerance for injustice, and an increased likelihood of insurgency. Protests and demonstrations have likely been aggravated due to former President Nazarbayev’s undemocratic control over power in Kazakhstan with suppressed opposition.[21] Labelling protesters as “terrorists” will likely increase distrust between the government and the population.[22] Protesters demand political liberalization, but the Kazakh government’s historical suppression of opposition activists and parties has led to negligible presence of any political alternative, likely indicating that President Tokayev’s loss of control over the country would very likely lead to a power vacuum.[23]


A peacekeeping force from the CSTO will be sent to Kazakhstan after Kazakh President Tokayev asked for help from the alliance to end the protests.[24] Russia very likely aims to prevent Kazakh unrest from spilling over to Russian territory. Russia will very likely provide Kazakhstan with long-term support, both military and financial, given the shared economic union and territorial border. CSTO’s agreement to send peacekeeping troops to Kazakhstan will very likely be seen by the international community as strategically and politically driven by Russia. Russia will almost certainly maintain its status as a leader in its sphere of influence in former Soviet countries by providing support. Russian allies will almost certainly support the country in future economic, political, or military disputes if they notice that Russia, along with CSTO, is ready and willing to intervene in case of emergency. If the protests in Kazakhstan end with a change in the type of government, Russia will very likely lose Kazakhstan as an ally, as a new government will likely make cooperation with Russia harder.


The protests in Kazakhstan will likely encourage government opposition forces and protesters in former Soviet countries, such as Georgia and Turkey, as gas and fuel prices have been increasing in those countries as well.[25] The protests in Kazakhstan will very likely set a precedent for citizens in these countries who object to the rising gas and fuel prices. This will likely lead to protests, likely posing a security threat to these countries’ political stability. However, Russia will almost certainly try to halt the spread of unrest through its security forces in Kazakhstan.


CTG’s CENTCOM Team recommends that the state of emergency declared in Kazakhstan remain in effect until a new government has complete control of the situation. Measures to cap LPG prices should be implemented, such as the State establishing a fixed price on LPG prices or increasing salaries of workers, so they would be able to pay current LPG prices. It is also recommended that residents continue to abide by the state of emergency mandates put in place. They should avoid areas where protests may occur.


​​The CENTCOM Team at CTG will continue to monitor developments, specifically protests that are almost certain to turn violent, taking place in Kazakhstan. The CENTCOM Team will also monitor measures aimed at reducing or increasing fuel prices and President Tokayev’s conduct until the curfew is lifted on January 19, 2022. President Tokayev’s decisions during this period, such as using force to stop protests or regulating prices on LPG, diesel, and consumer goods, are very likely to shape the outcome of protests in Kazakhstan. The EUCOM Team at CTG will continue to monitor the decisions the Russian government takes regarding interventions and sending troops into Kazakhstan. Through the Worldwide Analysis of Threats, Crime, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H.), CTG continuously tracks all violent events to provide current fact-based analysis. The CENTCOM and EUCOM Teams will continue to report violent situations and encounters across Kazakhstan, especially potential spillover effects into the European region.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) has become the global leader in proactively fighting terrorist organizations around the world. CTG specializes in intelligence collection, and analysis, as well as investigative work to counterterrorism. CTG resources are delivered to advise clients on a business resilience process using current threat intelligence data. We scan for threats across the following regions; Africa, Central Asia, Europe, North America, South America, and Asia-Pacific. Our organization assesses evolving threats through, Worldwide Analysis of Threats, Crime, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H.) services. Our W.A.T.C.H Officers and Digital Targeters monitor the threat posed by cyber threats, insider threats, fraud, espionage, hazards, reputational damages, violent crime, kidnappings, and bombing threats. To find out more about our products and W.A.T.C.H. services visit us at counterterrorismgroup.com.

[1] ‘’Kazakhstan protests’’ by Estetok licensed under Creative Commons

[2] Tientallen demonstranten doodgeschoten in Kazachstan, RTL Nieuws, January 2022, https://www.rtlnieuws.nl/nieuws/buitenland/artikel/5279153/kazachstan-almaty-opstand-protest-demonstranten-gasprijzen-olaf (translated by Pètra van de Gevel)

[3] Kazakh president fails to quell protests, ex-Soviet states offer help, Reuters, January 2022, https://www.reuters.com/markets/commodities/kazakhstan-government-resigns-after-violent-protests-over-fuel-price-2022-01-05/

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Kazakhstan protests: government resigns amid rare outbreak of unrest, The Guardian, January 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jan/04/kazakhstan-president-declares-state-of-emergency-in-protest-hit-areas

[7] State of emergency in Kazakhstan as president vows crackdown, The Hindu, January 2022, https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/state-of-emergency-in-kazakhstan-as-president-kassym-jomart-tokayev-vows-crackdown/article38140398.ece

[8] Emergency declared in Kazakhstan as fuel protests rage and government resigns, MSN, January 2022, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/emergency-declared-in-kazakhstan-as-fuel-protests-rage-and-government-resigns/ar-AASssGW?ocid=BingNewsSearch

[9] Kazakhstan government resigns following fuel price protests, Deutsche Welle, January 2022, https://amp.dw.com/en/kazakhstan-government-resigns-following-fuel-price-protests/a-60332403

[10] Public buildings stormed as Kazakhstan government’s resignation fails to quell protests, NBC News, January 2022, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/kazakhstan-declares-state-emergency-fuel-price-protests-rcna10978

[11] Emergency declared in Kazakhstan as fuel protests rage and government resigns, MSN, January 2022, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/emergency-declared-in-kazakhstan-as-fuel-protests-rage-and-government-resigns/ar-AASssGW?ocid=BingNewsSearch

[12] Ibid

[13] Kazakhstan government resigns following fuel price protests, Deutsche Welle, January 2022, https://amp.dw.com/en/kazakhstan-government-resigns-following-fuel-price-protests/a-60332403

[14] Ibid

[15] Ibid

[16] "Outside Interference" Blamed For Unrest In Kazakhstan; Over 1,000 Injured, NDTV, January 2022, https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/kazakhstan-unrest-kazakhstan-news-kazakhstan-protest-outside-interference-blamed-for-unrest-in-kazakhstan-dozens-killed-2692099

[17] Russia-Allied Forces to Intervene as Unrest Sweeps Kazakhstan, The New York Times, January 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/05/world/europe/kazakhstan-protests-gas-prices.html

[18] Kazakhstan government's resignation fails to quell protests, The Korea Times, January 2022, https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/world/2022/01/683_321751.html

[19] Retreating Rights – Kazakhstan: Introduction, The Foreign Policy Centre, July 2021, https://fpc.org.uk/retreating-rights-kazakhstan-introduction/

[20] Russia-Allied Forces to Intervene as Unrest Sweeps Kazakhstan, The New York Times, January 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/05/world/europe/kazakhstan-protests-gas-prices.html

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Retreating Rights – Kazakhstan: Introduction, The Foreign Policy Centre, July 2021, https://fpc.org.uk/retreating-rights-kazakhstan-introduction/

[24] Kazakh president fails to quell protests, ex-Soviet states offer help, Reuters, January 2022, https://www.reuters.com/markets/commodities/kazakhstan-government-resigns-after-violent-protests-over-fuel-price-2022-01-05/

[25] Tientallen demonstranten doodgeschoten in Kazachstan, RTL Nieuws, January 2022, https://www.rtlnieuws.nl/nieuws/buitenland/artikel/5279153/kazachstan-almaty-opstand-protest-demonstranten-gasprijzen-olaf (translated by Pètra van de Gevel)



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