Kazakhstan President Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev has blamed unidentified “external forces” for orchestrating the riots, looting and attacks against law enforcement officers in the country’s former capital of Almaty and other Kazakh cities last week.

At an online televised meeting of presidents of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, held earlier this week, Tokayev went as far as to say that the goal of “externally guided protesters and foreign fighters” was an attempted coup d’etat in the country.

Besides Russia and Kazakhstan, the mutual assistance treaty also includes Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Tokayev’s pronouncement was backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who described the protests as “an attack of global terrorists” supported from “outside”.

Putin did not provide clarification about the identity of these outside agitators.

Earlier reports from the country stated that Kazakh authorities had detained about 10,000 people across the country for participating in street protests, with about 40 people identified as foreign nationals.

The Russian paratroopers arrived promptly after a request issued by Kazakh authorities. It is the first time that Russian troops have been deployed under the collective security treaty.

Little impact on production

So far, there has been little indication that riots have affected the production of oil and natural gas in the Opec+ alliance member, which is a major fossil fuels exporter to European markets and China

US Chevron-led Tengizchevroil that is the largest oil producer in the country, had to temporarily curtail its output due to logistics last week, but the situation has been addressed rapidly.

“TCO is safely and gradually increasing production to reach normal rates,” Chevron told Upstream.

“TCO continues to focus on ensuring the health and safety of its workforce. All production facilities continue operating safely.”

Nazarbayev ousted, cabinet replaced

Speaking on Monday, Tokayev labelled as “wrong” suggestions that the mass unrest and the rapid response, including the prompt arrival of almost 3000 Russian paratroopers, had served as cover for initiating massive reshuffle in the government, aimed at removing officials linked to former long-serving President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Numerous reports from Kazakhstan stated that the unrest coincided with Tokayev removing Nazarbayev from his post as head of the country’s Security Council, even though the position was supposed to be constitutionally-guaranteed.

A spokesperson for Nazarbayev said the former president resigned from the Security Council “voluntarily”.

Nazarbayev, who ruled Kazakhstan for almost 30 years, had retained a strong but discreet grip on power since his formal resignation from presidency in 2019.

He was last seen in public in the beginning of January, together with key members of his family, and his current whereabouts remain unclear.

In the wake of the unrest, Tokayev ordered the resignation of Prime Minister Askar Mamin and members of his government, with an arrest warrant issued for the former head of Kazakh National Security Agency Karim Masimov, who was widely seen as a Nazarbayev’s representative.

New Prime Minister, Alikhan Smailov, together with seven new ministers, including new Energy Minister Bolat Akchulatov, were appointed this week to the Kazakh government, with nine ministers from the Mamin’s government however, keeping their seats.

LPG price hike sparks protests

The protests in Kazakhstan reportedly erupted on New Year’s Eve in the oil towns of Zhanaozen and Aktau and were apparently triggered by news of a steep hike in the retail price of liquid petroleum gas.

Traditionally, LPG has been the least expensive liquid fossil fuel in Kazakhstan. and is sold both domestically and internationally, with consumption by motorists and households rising dramatically in the past decade.

As protests spread to Almaty and other cities, they turned political, with demonstrators chanting “Time to go, old man [Nazarbayev]!” and toppling his statute in the city of Taldykorgan.

Observers repeatedly highlighted the worsening economic situation in Kazakhstan last year after lower oil prices reduced budget revenues from major foreign-led oil developments such as Tengiz, Karachaganak and Kashagan.

According to the Kazakh government, the country’s economy shrank by almost 3% last year after several years of growth, with escalating inflation, massive layoffs and salary freezes all serving to ratchet up poverty levels.

Kazakh authorities said on Sunday that 164 people, including a four-year-old girl, had been killed during a week of protests.

Oil and gas production

The Kazakh association of contractors, KazService, stated that protesters at the US Chevron-led Tengiz field had quickly lifted a blockade of access roads after receiving assurances of wage increases for up to 50%.

Following the lifting of most of Covid-19 restrictions last year, builders were mobilised to the field under the multibillion dollar Wellhead Pressure Management Project and Future Growth Project, which are aimed at increasing the Tengiz field’s output after 2023.

KazMunayGaz, Russia’s Lukoil that is a major investor in Kazakh oil sector and Caspian Pipeline Consortium — operator of a major oil pipeline from the country to international markets — said in statements that their core operations suffered no impact from last week’s disorders and unrest.