12/06/2022, 14.43
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Ulaanbaatar: protests at government building against theft of public funds

Protesters attempted to storm the government building after reports of a corruption case related to coal exports to China. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, inflation has exceeded 15%, while border closures have reduced trade with Beijing. The president today proposed the dissolution of parliament.

Ulaanbaatar (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Hundreds of demonstrators stormed the government building in the capital Ulaanbaatar last night to protest against the theft of .8 billion in public funds by some of the country's politicians linked to the coal industry.

The protesters, mainly young people, who gathered in front of the government building despite a temperature of -21° Celsius, broke a few windows and unhinged some gates, but failed to enter the building. By 9pm (local time) most of the demonstrations had been dispersed. 

The news about the theft of coal, which has spread in recent days, added to the population's discontent with the economic situation: after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, inflation has spiked to 15.2% and China's closure of the borders for the 'zero covid' policy has reduced trade.

Eighty-six per cent of Mongolia's exports - half of them coal - go to China and a quarter of Mongolia's gross domestic product comes from the mining sector.

The Mongolian government has asked Beijing to participate in the investigation into the theft of public funds, Economic Development Minister Khurelbaatar Chimed confirmed at a press conference today.

In mid-November, the national anti-corruption authority had announced that more than 30 officials - including the CEO of the state coal mining company Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi - were under investigation for embezzlement. The company controls deposits containing 7.5 billion tonnes of coke, a coal by-product essential for steel production. 

According to leaked rumours so far, officials are alleged to have exploited the coal mines to make illegal profits with China. 

The former CEO of Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi, Gankhuyag Battulga, had been sacked last October without any reasons being given, but now the people, referring to a 'coal mafia', are calling for those responsible to be identified and punished even within the government. 

"People are angry about this case because they were promised that the country's wealth would be shared with them," Jana Zilkova, director of Caritas Czech Republic in Ulaanbaatar, told Al Jazeera. 

The Mongolian president, Khurelsukh Ukhnaa, proposed the dissolution of parliament this morning.

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