Protesters in Kazakhstan’s largest city stormed the presidential residence and the mayor’s office on Wednesday and set both buildings on fire, according to new reports, as demonstrations sparked by a rise in fuel prices in the Central Asian nation escalated sharply.
Police fired on some protesters at the presidential palace before fleeing. They have clashed repeatedly with demonstrators in recent days, deploying water cannons in the freezing weather, tear gas and concussion grenades.
The government resigned in response to the unrest and the president vowed to take harsh measures to quell it. In possibly the first of those efforts, Kazakh news sites became inaccessible late in the day, and the global watchdog organization Netblocks said the country was experiencing a pervasive internet blackout.
Although the protests began over a near-doubling of prices for a type of liquefied gas that is widely used as vehicle fuel, the size and rapid spread of the unrest suggest they reflect wider discontent in the country that has been under the rule of the same party since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.