Although the protests began over a near-doubling of prices for 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.

The presidential residence in Kazakhstan’s largest city was engulfed in flames on Wednesday and armed protesters stormed another government building, according to news reports, as demonstrations sparked by a rise in fuel prices escalated sharply, AP reports.

In response to the protests, the government resigned and the president vowed to take harsh measures to quell the unrest. Late in the day, Kazakh news sites became inaccessible, and the global watchdog organization Netblocks said the country was experiencing a pervasive internet blackout.

But Russia’s Tass news agency reported from Kazakhstan that the presidential residence in Almaty, where thousands of demonstrators had gathered outside, was on fire and that the city’s main administration building that includes the mayor’s office was burning from top to bottom hours after demonstrators broke in.

Many of the demonstrators who converged on the mayoral office carried clubs and shields, according to earlier reports in Kazakh media.

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