Police in Kazakhstan detain dozens of anti-government protesters

March 22, 2019

ASTANA/ALMATY (Reuters) – Police detained dozens of anti-government protesters at rallies in Kazakhstan’s two major cities on Friday, days after the surprise resignation of veteran leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, Reuters correspondents reported.

The protests were organized by Nazarbayev’s foe, fugitive banker and opposition politician Mukhtar Ablyazov, who has accused the 78-year-old politician of planning a dynastic succession that would see his daughter Dariga succeed him.

Dariga Nazarbayeva was elected speaker of the upper house of parliament earlier this week after the Senate’s previous speaker, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, was made interim president.

The oil and gas-rich Central Asian country is expected to hold a presidential election next year.

Dozens of supporters of Ablyazov, who lives in France, took to the streets of Almaty, the biggest Kazakh city, and Astana, the capital, which is in the process of being renamed Nur-Sultan at Tokayev’s proposal.

Some carried blue balloons long used by the group as an emblem of opposition.

But police, including officers in full riot gear, quickly detained virtually all the protesters who shouted “Shame!” as they were bundled off. Public rallies are illegal in Kazakhstan without the authorities’ permission.

Nazarbayev, who retains significant powers as chairman of the Security Council, has not exited the Kazakh political stage despite his resignation and spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone on Thursday together with Tokayev.

(Reporting by Tamara Vaal in Astana and Mariya Gordeyeva in Almaty; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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