Almaty | AP: Kazakhstan is experiencing the worst street protests the country has seen since gaining independence three decades ago. Police in the country's largest city, Almaty, say that dozens of people have been killed in attacks on government buildings. 

The outburst is causing significant concern in Kazakhstan's two powerful neighbours: Russia and China. The country sells most of its oil exports to China and is a key strategic ally of Moscow.

What is causing this protest?

A sudden spike in the price of car fuel at the start of the year triggered the first protests in a remote oil town in the west. But the tens of thousands who have since surged onto the streets across more than a dozen cities and towns now have the entire authoritarian government in their sights.

How did the govt react?

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev's government responded by cutting off internet services and banning messaging apps at first. He then sought to mollify the crowds by dismissing the entire government early Wednesday. But by the end of the day, he had changed tact. First, he described demonstrators as terrorists. Then he appealed to a Russian-led military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, for help in crushing the uprising and the CSTO agreed to send an unspecified number of peacekeepers. 

Why are protestors angry?

When prices for the liquified petroleum gas most people in the area use to power their cars doubled overnight Saturday, patience of people snapped. Residents in nearby cities quickly joined in and within days large protests had spread to the rest of the country.

Will the govt topple?

In one of his appeals to the public on Wednesday, Tokayev pledged to pursue reforms and hinted that political liberalization might be possible. His darker remarks toward the end of the day, however, suggested he would instead go down a more repressive road. Still, because the street protests are so lacking in focus, at least for now, it's difficult to see how they might end. But even if they fail to topple the government, it looks possible they might lead to deep transformation. What is not clear is what that might mean.

Posted By: Sugandha Jha