Violent clashes broke out between protestors and security forces in Kazakhstan’s largest city of Almaty early Thursday. City police said that more than 20 “rioters” had been “eliminated,” according to Russian news agency Interfax.
A day after the army was called in to quell increasingly volatile unrest, witnesses said they saw armored vehicles and dozens of troops moving on Almaty’s main square. Sounds of gunshots were also reported.
Several international airlines, such as flydubai and Air Arabia, announced on Thursday that they were suspending flights to Kazakhstan after demonstrators took over the Almaty airport.
Kazakhstan’s National Bank has temporarily suspended all financial institutions and the internet is largely down across the country as the tumult continued for a third day.
The demonstrations in Almaty and the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan began in response to a new law that came into effect on January 1. The law ended price controls for fuel, sending the cost of gas skyrocketing.
At least eight police and national guard troops have been killed in outbreaks of violence during the protests.
The government of Prime Minister Askar Mamin has resigned and President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has declared a state of emergency in Almaty.
Tokayev called the demonstrators “terrorist gangs” who were “undermining of the integrity of the state.”
The president has also appealed to the he Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Moscow-based alliance of six former Soviet countries, for aid in clamping down on protests.
The CSTO later confirmed that it had sent an unspecificed number of peacekeepers.