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'Say no to Putin': Ukrainians support protests in Kazakhstan

Al Jazeera

Kyiv, Ukraine – With their country's fate being discussed at this week's US-Russia talks, Ukrainians took to the streets over the weekend to defend their independence and champion an additional cause – that of Kazakhstan's protests. On Sunday, demonstrators in Kyiv and Kharkov, Ukraine's second largest city, held signs that read "Say no to Putin" and flew Kazakhstan flags alongside Ukrainian ones. Kazakhstan's blue and gold flag also appeared in the winter skies over Kyiv on Saturday, flown from a drone in an act of protest organised by Dronarium, an unmanned aerial vehicle enthusiast community known for political statements. "Every nation has the right to protect their socioeconomic and political rights through peaceful protest," said drone operator Vitaly Shevchuk."We After a week of violent protests that began over a hike in fuel prices and quickly spread across the country – leaving at least 164 dead, 2,000 injured and almost 6,000 arrested – a Russian-led military alliance has now restored control of Kazakhstan to the government. The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), an alliance of several former Soviet states, deployed about 2,500 troops to Kazakhstan to help quell the protest, including Russian paratroopers who are guarding "vital facilities and social infrastructure," a Russian Defence Ministry statement said. Critics have accused Russia of "occupation" over its involvement, with Kazakh Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former minister turned opposition leader, warning President Vladimir Putin will draw the country into "a structure like the Soviet Union" unless the West intervenes. Motivated more by their own hopes to defy Putin than in sharing a common cause with the protests, Ukrainians also urged resistance. "The dictator [Putin] wants to rebuild the USSR by force," said Olga Angelova, who was among the protesters in Kyiv. "He must be stopped – we Ukrainians will resist the occupiers.