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Wave of protest against depreciation of national currency overwhelms Kazakhstan

Unauthorized protest rallies took place in the former capital of Kazakhstan on February 15th and 16th. They included lots of citizens outraged by the national currency’s depreciation and price increases.  

According to different estimates from 200 to 600 people took part in the protests. The participants marched against price increases and demanded the government to solve the burning social problems. The battle-cries demanding shift in power were not unheard of. The demonstrations were blocked by police forces and SOBR special police. Dozens of most vigorous activists were detained by police officers.

Let us recall that on February 11th the Central Bank of Kazakhstan announced its decision to cease maintenance of national currency exchange rate at the previous stake (the tenge exchange rate used to be approximately 150 tenge/$1 give or take 3%), reduce its interference in the exchange rate’s generation and cut the size of currency intervention. The trade responded instantly by price increases.

On February 12th the first public rally took place in front of the Central Bank building in Alma-Ata. The protestors demanded the bank’s head to resign.

“The country may benefit from depreciation but that is the case only if the country is capable of making its end meet. Otherwise it is nothing but robbery” – the social media users tweet indignantly.

An outstanding Kazakh policy maker and public person Amirjan Kosanov even likened the depreciation to pick pocketing.

The official statement by the president of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev is hardly a relief. He made it on February 14th at the government session: “There is no reason for anxiety. There won’t be any further drop in price for tenge. We will start working hard for the best of our country.” The people were outraged at that point: “The question is – why you were unable to do that (work hard for the best of the country) before?”

The Ministry of Defense being scared of the all-too-possible waves of protest and even riots placed the police on high-alert state. Furthermore armored columns were summoned next to the largest cities.  

The official statement on that event told that the reason behind it was a scheduled check of the troops’ preparedness for military action. According to the Ministry of Defense press office the aim of the check is to find out the capabilities to fulfill various tasks within the agreed timescale of different military units and to check their skills and training.   

“The scheduled check of military units by the higher examination group of Ministry of Defense is under way. We are examining battle readiness and the serviceability status of armor and weaponry among other things. All is in accordance with the schedule. To pass the test the vehicles has to move out and make an accelerated 50 km march. Ifitsucceedsthenweassumeittobebattle-ready. We have already been done with the march; the check goes on in the field. There are no reasons for worries or anxiety – that kind of scheduled check is undertaken every three years” – a Ministry of Defense official explained.

We must admit, though, that the coincidence is a rather odd one: national currency depreciation was announced on February 11th, and in a few days that military check started. What should the citizens think of when seeing armored columns on the march?

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