Putin and the President of Kazakhstan discuss the restoration of “order”

Moscow (CNN) — Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Jomart Tokayev discussed restoring “order” in Kazakhstan after days of violence and unrest on Saturday, as several high-profile officials were detained on suspicion of treason. .

Tokayev told Putin that the situation in his country was “moving towards stabilization” and expressed his “appreciation” for the deployment of a Russian-led military bloc in Kazakhstan to try to control violence on the streets, the Kremlin said in a statement. a statement on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the former head of Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee Karim Massimov and some other unnamed officials have been detained on suspicion of treason, the country’s National Security Committee announced, according to state media Khabar 24 on Saturday.

Local residents stand shoulder to shoulder with police at the Sultan City Hall in Nur-Sultan on January 8.

Violent protests in Kazakhstan in recent days have seen the government resign and a state of emergency declared as troops from a Russian-led military alliance head to the Central Asian country to help quell unrest. Dozens have been killed, hundreds have been injured and thousands of protesters have been arrested.

It is the biggest challenge yet to Tokayev’s autocratic government, which sparked public anger at rising fuel prices that spread to broader discontent with the government over corruption, living standards, poverty and unemployment in the oil-rich former Soviet nation, human rights organizations report.

On January 5, protesters reportedly stormed the airport in the country’s largest city, Almaty, forcibly entered government buildings and set fire to the main office of the city administration, media reported. local. There were also reports of deadly clashes with the police and military, a nationwide internet blackout and damaged buildings in three major cities.

Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in Moscow on August 21, 2021.

The violence continued into the next day, with dozens of protesters killed and hundreds injured, according to an Almaty police officer. Security forces reportedly fired on protesters and explosions were heard near Republic Square in Almaty, Russia’s state news agency TASS reported.

In a readout of Tokayev’s call with Putin on Saturday, Tokayev reportedly told Putin that the situation in the country is stabilizing but “hotspots of terrorist attacks persist. Therefore, the fight against terrorism will continue resolutely.” “.

“Kill Without Warning”

Tokayev declared January 10 a national day of mourning for the victims of the violent protests, his press office announced on Saturday.

As of January 7, a total of 18 law enforcement officers had been killed in the violence and 748 wounded, state television Khabar 24 reported, citing the Interior Ministry. According to the state broadcaster, 26 “armed criminals” have been killed and 18 injured, and more than 3,000 protesters have been detained during unrest across the country.

The Kazakh president “signed an order declaring January 10 a day of national mourning in Kazakhstan in relation to human casualties as a result of terrorist acts in the country,” the press office said on Twitter.

It comes after the leader said on Friday that he had ordered security forces to “kill without warning” to stop violent protests that have brought the former Soviet republic to a standstill.

In a defiant public speech, Tokayev claimed that the riots, which began earlier this week with protests against rising fuel prices, had been masterminded by well-trained “terrorist bandits” both inside and outside the country. CNN has not corroborated any claims made by the government or the president defending their use of violence and excessive force against protesters.

Political instability in Kazakhstan affects bitcoin 0:56

flurry of rumors

Kazakhstan’s former president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, remains in the country, his press secretary said on Twitter on Saturday following rumors that he had left amid the violence.

His press secretary, Aidos Ukibai, said the former leader remains in the capital city, Nursultan, without offering evidence.

“The leader of the nation remains in the capital of Kazakhstan, the city of Nur-Sultan. We ask you not to spread false information. The leader of the nation is in consultation and is in direct line with President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev,” Ukibai said.

People walk past cars that were burned after the clashes, on a street in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Friday, January 7.

Ukibai said that Nazarbayev had made several phone calls with the leaders of countries friendly to Kazakhstan.

“The leader of the nation calls for unity around the president of Kazakhstan to overcome current challenges and ensure security in the country,” he added.

It comes after Tokayev said in a televised speech on Wednesday that he had replaced Nazarbayev as head of the country’s Security Council.

Earlier this week, protesters rejected the statue of Nazarbayev in the city of Taldykorgan, in the southeastern Almaty region of the country.

Prime Minister Askar Mamin resigned amid the protests. Alikhan Smailov was named acting prime minister, and members of the government will continue to serve until the new cabinet is formed, according to a statement posted on the presidential website on Wednesday.

Nazarbayev announced his resignation as president in March 2019, after nearly three decades in office. The former Communist Party official was the last of the leaders running the 15 Soviet republics when the USSR collapsed in 1991.

The country’s capital bears his name after his resignation.

Nazarbayev ran Kazakhstan like a typical autocrat: The State Department’s 2018 human rights report noted that Kazakhstan’s 2015 presidential election, in which Nazarbayev received 98% of the votes cast, “was marred by irregularities and lacked genuine political competition.

CNN’s Helen Regan contributed reporting.

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