Kazakhstan says ‘strategic facilities’ under guard after unrest

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A number of “strategic facilities” in Kazakhstan are under the guard of a Russia-led military alliance invited to restore order, the presidential office said on Sunday, amid the deadliest outbreak of violence in the country’s 30 years of independence.

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Dozens of people have been killed, thousands detained and public buildings have been torched across the Central Asia country in the past week, prompting President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to issue shoot-to-kill orders to end unrest he has blamed on what he terms bandits and terrorists.

At Tokayev’s invitation, the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) sent troops to restore order, an intervention that comes at a time of high tension in Russia-U.S. relations ahead of new talks on the Ukraine crisis.

“A number of strategic facilities have been transferred under the protection of the united peacekeeping contingent of the CSTO member states,” the presidential office said in a statement detailing a security briefing chaired by Tokayev.

It did not identify the facilities.

The administration said 5,800 people had been arrested in connection with the unrest, including a “significant number” of foreign citizens. It said the situation had stabilized in all regions.

The demonstrations in Kazakhstan began as a response to a fuel price hike before spiraling into a broad movement against Tokayev’s government and the man he replaced as president of the resource-rich former Soviet republic, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Nazarbayev, 81, was the longest-serving ruler of any former Soviet state until he turned over the presidency to Tokayev in 2019. His family is widely believed to have retained influence in Nur-Sultan, the purpose-built capital that bears his name.

Tokayev removed Nazarbayev on Wednesday as head of the country’s Security Council, a role in which he had continued to wield significant influence.

Kazakhstan’s former intelligence chief and two-time prime minister Karim Massimov has been arrested on suspicion of treason.

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