YB WEB DESK. Dated: 1/10/2022 1:24:09 PM

T K NANDANAN There are widespread protests in Kazakhstan over surging fuel prices, which have further intensified into something more combustible and bloody. In this connection, the former head of Kazakhstan’s counterintelligence and anti-terror agency has been arrested on charges of attempted government overthrow in the wake of violent protests that the President has blamed on foreignbacked terrorists. Kazakhstan is a central Asian country and former Soviet republic. It borders Russia in the north and west, China in the east and Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in the south. The capital is Nur-Sultan, which was formerly known as Astana. According to the 2009 Census, 70% of the population is Muslim, but according to its Constitution, it is a secular state. Does this nation belong to continent of Asia or Europe? Most people would probably agree that Kazakhstan is best classified as part of Asia. But given that the world’s largest landlocked country has long been viewed as a crossroad between Europe and Asia, there are arguments to be made for why it is also part of Europe. It is pertinent to note that about 10% of the country is on the European side of the Ural Mountains and 90% of the country is in Asia. Now back to the issue plaguing Kazakhstan. Protests in the country incited by anger over the surge of fuel prices-clashes over the future direction of the country that have prompted a Russia-led military intervention and the killing of dozens of anti-government demonstrations. On Friday, the government said that order had been ‘mainly restored’ after thousands of angry protesters took to the streets of Kazakhstan creating the biggest crisis to shake the autocratic Central Asian country since it gained independence in 1991. As a matter of fact, the protests have more deep-seated roots including anger at social and economic disparities aggravated by a raging pandemic as well the lack of democracy. Protesters set fire to police vehicles and to the regional branch of the ruling Nur Otan party. The police, in turn, accused demonstrators of being responsible for the deaths of 13 officers and for leaving 353 injured. President Kassym Tokayev has authorized the nation’s security forces to fire without warning. Sandwiched between Russia and China, Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country bigger than the whole of Western Europe though with a population of only 19 million. The protests are also significant as Kazakhstan has been aligned with Russia whose President Vladimir Putin views the country as part of Russia’s sphere of influence. Russia does not want Kazakhstan to go out of its influence and that was why Russialed military alliance of six former Soviet states- the Collective Security Treaty Organisation sent 2,500 troops to Kazakhstan at Tokayev’s request to quell the protests.


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