Kazakhstan: Tokayev replaces Nazarbayev as Security Council head, vows ‘tough’ response as anti-government protests intensify


NUR-SULTAN — Speaking on television in the evening on January 5, Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said he intends to “act as tough as possible” as protesters and security forces clashed in several of Kazakh main cities amid intensifying anti-government demonstrations in the Central Asian country.

The President said that starting from today, he also acts as the chairman of Kazakhstan’s Security Council — the post earlier occupied by the powerful former President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

“As president, I am obliged to protect the safety and peace of our citizens, to worry about the integrity of Kazakhstan,” Tokayev said, after angry Kazakhs stormed official buildings in several cities and mobs chased police and soldiers through streets as their frustration with a steep rise in fuel prices, along with discontent over issues such as corruption, unemployment, and low wages, boiled over, RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service reported.

Tokayev also said that in the near future he will step up with new proposals on Kazakhstan’s political transformation.

In Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, hundreds of protesters, some of whom were armed with rubber truncheons, sticks, and shields, stormed the mayor’s office on January 5 amid volleys of tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets from police, with reports of a fire breaking out in the building.

Protesters, described by the Almaty police chief as “extremists and radicals,” also attempted to break into the presidential residence in the southeastern city, according to news reports, while smoke also streamed out of the ruling Nur Otan party’s headquarters.

Nazarbayev, 81, ruled the country with an iron fist from its independence in 1991 until 2019, when he abruptly resigned as president and picked Tokayev as his successor.

A video footage spread on social media on January 5 shows protesters in the city of Taldykorgan trying to dismantle a monument to Nazarbayev. reports on demands for President Tokayev’s resignation voiced at a rally on the main square in Aktau in western Kazakhstan. More than 10 thousand people have gathered for the rally, the news agency reports.