MOSCOW – Kazakh authorities have arrested the former head of the Central Asian country’s internal security agency and other officials, saying they were suspected of treason, while government forces, backed by Russian troops , sought to restore order after days of turmoil.
More than 4,400 people, including an undisclosed number of foreign citizens, have been arrested, according to the Kazakh Interior Ministry, in the framework of sometimes violent anti-government protests exuding popular frustration with the economy and the tightly controlled political system .
After episodes of looting and attacks on government offices, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev requested help from the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, and Moscow sent paratroopers into the former soviet republic Thursday.
Kazakh state television reported on Saturday that the protests had mostly subsided, a day after Tokayev gave orders to shoot security forces on sight. Social media posts showed largely deserted streets in Almaty, the country’s largest city, which has been at the center of the unrest.
The government described the upheaval as the result of foreign interference without providing any evidence.
“We had to deal with armed and trained bandits, local and foreign,” Tokayev said in a speech to the nation on Friday.
On Saturday, the Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin had a long telephone conversation with Tokayev, during which the Kazakh president briefed his Russian counterpart on the current situation in the country, “noting that she is moving towards the stabilization, ”the Kremlin said.
The presidents exchanged views on measures taken to restore order in Kazakhstan and Tokayev expressed gratitude for the assistance provided by the CSTO “and in particular the Russian Federation,” the Kremlin said.
Mr Tokayev also told Mr Putin that a joint conversation between CSTO leaders was needed and that he intended to “come up with an initiative to hold a videoconference” in the coming days under the chairmanship of the CSTO. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who currently chairs the alliance, said the Kremlin.
Also on Saturday, Tokayev said Monday would be a national day of mourning for those who died in the unrest, his press secretary Berik Uali wrote on Facebook.
On Saturday, the authorities announced that they had arrested Karim Masimov, the former chairman of the National Security Committee, the country’s internal intelligence agency, on Thursday. He was replaced as president on Wednesday. They said he was under investigation for high treason.
Former Prime Minister Masimov is an ally of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the longtime ruler of Kazakhstan. Mr Nazarbayev formally handed power to Mr Tokayev in 2019, but continued to wield considerable political power, according to current and former diplomats.
Mr Nazarbayev, known for his personalized style of government, has not been seen in public since the unrest began.
Tokayev pledged that Kazakhstan would continue to provide security and protection for foreign diplomatic missions as well as personnel and property of foreign companies and investors.
But on Friday, the US State Department approved the voluntary departure of non-emergency US government workers and their families at its consulate general in Almaty.
Write to Ann M. Simmons at [email protected]
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