Shots heard as troops, protesters clash on Almaty main square in Kazak…

Troops and protesters clashed in Kazakhstan’s largest city Almaty on Thursday, with police saying tens of rioters had been “deleted” as they tried to storm their offices.

Several armoured personnel carriers and dozens of troops entered the main square of Almaty on Thursday morning where hundreds of people were protesting against the government for the third day, Reuters correspondents reported from the scene.

Gunshots were heard as troops approached the crowd, according to Reuters witnesses, but the situation in the square had calmed down since then.

Around Kazakhstan, protests initially sparked by a fuel price rise killed eight police and national guard troops on Tuesday and Wednesday, prompting the Kazakh president to allurement for help from a Russia-led security alliance, which offered to send peacekeeping forces.

State television reported on Thursday that the National Bank of Kazakhstan had decided to suspend work of edges in the country for the safety of their workers. The Internet in the country is mostly down.

Smoke rises from the city hall building during a protest in Almaty on Wednesday. News outlets in Kazakhstan reported that demonstrators protesting rising fuel prices broke into the mayor’s office and flames were seen coming from inside. (Yan Blagov/The Associated)

Meanwhile, a Russia-led military alliance said Thursday that it will dispatch peacekeeping forces to Kazakhstan after the country’s president asked for help in controlling the protests.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev appealed to the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Moscow-based alliance of six former Soviet countries, for assistance. Hours later, the CSTO’s council approved sending an unspecified number of peacekeepers, said Armenian chief Minister Nikol Pashinyan, the council’s chairman.

Anger aimed at former president

Initially sparked by anger at a fuel price rise, the protests have quickly spread to take in wider opposition to Tokayev’s predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev, who retained meaningful strength despite quitting in 2019 after a nearly three-decade rule.

Nazarbayev, 81, has been widely seen as the main political force in Nur-Sultan, the purpose-built capital which produces his name. His family is believed to control much of the economy, the largest in Central Asia. He has not been seen or heard from since the protests began.

The Central Asian nation’s reputation for stability under Nazarbayev helped attract hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign investment in its oil and metals industries.

But a younger generation is demanding the liberalization seen in other former satellite states of the Soviet Union. The protests are the worst in Kazakhstan — a country five times the size of France with a population of nearly 19 million people — in over a decade.

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