Protesters stormed the mayor's office in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan's largest city Almaty on Wednesday as unprecedented protests over a hike in energy prices spun out of control.
Police fired stun grenades and tear gas at a crowd of several thousand protesters, some armed with batons and shields seized from police, but were unable to prevent the protesters from entering the building, an AFP correspondent said.
More than 200 people were detained during protests that swept across the Central Asian country following a New Year increase in prices for Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), which is widely used to fuel cars in the west of the country, police said on Wednesday morning.
Thousands took to the streets in the largest city Almaty and in the western province of Mangystau, saying the price rise was unfair given oil and gas exporter Kazakhstan's vast energy reserves.
On Wednesday afternoon AFP correspondents in Almaty witnessed men dressed in police uniform throw down their shields and helmets into a pile and embrace protesters. The men in police uniform refused to be interviewed.
"They have come over to our side," yelled one woman as she embraced a fellow protester.
The protests are the biggest threat so far to the regime established by Kazakhstan's founding president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who stepped down in 2019 and ushered loyalist Kassym-Jomart Tokayev into the presidency.
Nazarbayev, who is 81 and had ruled Kazakhstan since 1989, retains control over the country as chairman of the security council and "Leader of the Nation" -- a constitutional role that affords him unique policy-making privileges as well as immunity from prosecution.