Protesters in Mongolia tried to force their way into the State Palace over the weekend in response to allegations of corruption with officials involved in the country’s coal trade.
The U.S. Embassy in Mongolia’s capital city of Ulaanbaatar issued an alert Monday saying that several hundred protesters had gathered in the freezing cold at the city’s Sukhbaatar Square during the weekend and marched to the presidential residence with some people attempting to force their way inside the building.
The demonstrators chanted and sang while stamping their feet to stay warm. They were demanding that the government hold officials accountable for the alleged theft of 385,000 tons of coal from stockpiles on Mongolia’s border with China.
The allegations center on coal from the Tavan Tolgoi region in the south Gobi Desert that is being mined by state-owned Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi (ETT) and two other companies. Local media reports said ETT, which is listed on Mongolia’s stock exchange, has been placed under state supervision as the government’s Independent Authority Against Corruption investigates.
“Help us our country is collapsing,” one protester’s sign read, according to Barron’s.
Police attempted to break up the crowd around 9 p.m. local time as scuffles began to break out between law enforcement and the protesters.
Public outrage has continued to grow in Mongolia after a whistleblower claimed that lawmakers with ties to the coal industry are responsible for stealing billions of dollars worth of coal.
China is the destination of most of landlocked Mongolia’s exports of coal, cashmere, livestock and other resources.
In Beijing, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson who was asked about allegations that coal was stolen for sale inside China said she was unaware of that “specific situation.”
“China is a friendly neighbor of Mongolia, and we believe the Mongolian government will properly handle and investigate the matter. The competent Chinese authority will provide necessary assistance as requested by the Mongolian side in accordance with laws and regulations,” said Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning.
Economic conditions have deteriorated in the country of roughly 3.3 million as inflation has soared to 15.2% which has been exacerbated due in part to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Associated Press contributed to this report