Kazakh officials say a four-year-old girl was among the 164 people who were killed in last week’s protests. Authorities say 5,800 people have been detained.
In an effort to halt the protests, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev issued a shoot-to-kill order, enabling security forces to open fire on protesters without warning.
The leader of the former Soviet republic also asked Russia and its President Vladimir Putin for help in quashing the demonstrations. Russia and several other members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Eurasian intergovernmental military alliance, responded by sending troops.
The protests were prompted by a fuel price hike but grew over dissatisfaction with the country’s authoritarian rule.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday on ABC-TV’s This Week that Kazakhstan “has the ability to maintain law and order, to defend the institutions of the state, but to do so in a way that respects the rights of peaceful protesters and also addresses the concerns that they’ve raised – economic concerns, some political concerns.”
The demonstrations prompted Tokayev to dismiss his cabinet and his mentor, former President Nursultan Nazarbayev from his position as head of the country’s security council. Nazarbayev had led the country from its independence from the Soviet Union in 1990 until 2019.
Authorities also announced the arrest of Karim Massimov, former head of the National Security Committee, on suspicion of high treason. Masimov, 56, led the committee, which is responsible for counterintelligence, until Tokayev removed him last week.
Erica Marat, a professor at National Defense University, in Washington, told The New York Times that Tokayev “traded his country’s sovereignty to Russia for his own power and the interests of kleptocratic elites.”
Some material in this report came from the Associated Press.