Fugitive Ex-Banker 'Sees Himself as Leader of Opposition' in Kazakhstan
10:08 GMT 07.01.2022 (Updated: 11:31 GMT 07.01.2022)
© Sputnik / SputnikFormer Kazakh Minister of Energy, Industry, and Trade and fugitive ex-banker Mukhtar Ablyazov
© Sputnik / Sputnik
Kazakhstan has been gripped by violent protests since the beginning of the year following a surge in gas prices in the country. Their demands to slash the gas prices were quickly met by the government, as well as demands to sack the cabinet of ministers. Despite that, the protests, often followed by acts of vandalism and looting, continued.
Former Kazakh Minister of Energy, Industry, and Trade and fugitive ex-banker Mukhtar Ablyazov has stated that he sees himself as the "leader" of the ongoing protests in Kazakhstan. He also claimed that he has routinely consulted people on the ground in the city of Almaty on tactical issues.
"I see myself as the leader of the opposition. Every day the protesters call me and ask: 'What should we do? We are standing here: What should we do?'"
The former banker, who currently lives in Paris due to being accused of stealing $6 million from a Kazakh bank, went on to add that he is ready to return to his homeland and lead the provisional government once the protests reach the right magnitude.
Ablyazov dismissed the allegations that the protests are being funded from abroad and added that he had received no money from the West for this purpose.
Protests Grip Kazakhstan in 2022
Prior to this, no person had claimed the title of being in charge of the protests that have gripped Kazakhstan at the moment. The unrest started in several cities, including the nation's largest - Almaty - after local gas prices grew by around 100%. The government quickly slashed the prices and promised to control them for half a year at least, but the protesters soon added the resignation of the cabinet to the list of their demands. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev sacked the government for failing to prevent the popular protests.
Despite the government fulfilling the protesters' demands, the unrest in the country has continued, with demonstrators starting to seize, ransack, and set alight public buildings in several cities, including local administrations and police departments. They also reportedly managed to seize weapons from captured arsenals of the local law enforcement. The protests were additionally followed by widespread looting, vandalism, and damage to both public and private property worth millions of dollars, according to preliminary estimates.
President Tokayev branded violent protesters, who refused to cease their activities and start a dialogue, as "terrorists" promising to deal with them harshly, deploying the military to quell the unrest and restore order. Tokayev also addressed allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) to provide assistance.
The members of CSTO agreed to send small contingents of peacekeepers to Kazakhstan. They will not be participating in any activities related to quelling the protests in the country. Instead, they will be dedicated to guarding critical infrastructure facilities, such as power plants.