Kazakhstan police detained hundreds of protesters and several journalists as the country held a snap presidential elections, with the chosen successor of authoritarian ex-President Nursultan Nazarbaev expected to win easily. This is reported by Radio Liberty.
More than 100 protesters were detained in the in Astana Square in Kazakhstan's largest city of Almaty as they were calling for a boycott of the election in which Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev is running against six government-approved candidates in a carefully controlled election.
Deputy Interior Minister Marat Qozhaev told journalists in Nur-Sultan that about 500 "radically-minded elements" were detained in Almaty and the capital for holding "unauthorized protests." He said earlier that the detentions were made in order "to preserve law and order."
A small group of pro-government supporters also appeared during the second wave of detentions in Nur-Sultan but were allowed to stay.
Internet access in Nur-Sultan and Almaty was reportedly severely slowed down, preventing live streaming and making it very difficult to read social-media sites.
Security measures were heavily stepped up in the capital and in Almaty, with dozens of police officers deployed in Astana Square and elsewhere in the city.
The protesters in Nur-Sultan were calling for free and fair elections and were holding blue balloons, a sign of support for a banned opposition group, Kazakhstan's Democratic Choice.