Kazakh authorities have arrested its former intelligence chief on suspicion of treason as the Central Asian republic continues to be embroiled in unrest.
Karim Massimov’s detention was announced by the National Security Committee, which Massimov chaired until his dismissal this week by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
Twenty-six protesters and 18 members of the security forces died and more than 4,400 people were arrested in days of demonstrations in the largest city of Almaty and across the country, the Interior Ministry said on Saturday.
Mr. Tokayev met with the Russian President Vladimir Poutine during a “long” phone call, according to the Kremlin, and told him the situation was stabilizing.
In a statement posted on the Kazakh president’s website, Tokayev told Putin that his country was still under “terrorist” attacks in some places.
Russia is one of a number of countries who are part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CTSC) of the former Soviet republics which provided troops to help restore order.
The protests began in response to a near doubling in the price of liquefied petroleum gas which is widely used to power cars in the country.
Mr Tokayev blamed the violence on terrorists and foreign-backed bandits and ordered his troops to shoot to kill.
The presence of CTSO forces meant that the Kazakh police could be redeployed to Almaty to participate in a “counterterrorism operation,” the president’s office said.
Massimov’s arrest suggests that Tokayev is taking action against those held responsible for what he described as his country having “slept through” preparations for attacks on Almaty and elsewhere.
In addition to running the intelligence agency that replaced the Soviet-era KGB, Massimov served twice as prime minister and worked closely with former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who ruled for three decades until he entrusted the presidency to Mr. Tokayev in 2019.
Mr Nazarbayev, who had retained significant power, was removed from his post as head of the State Security Council on Wednesday, in an attempt, some say, to appease protesters who were shouting “Old man out!”
Occasional gunshots heard
In Almaty on Saturday, some businesses and gas stations reopened and police and other security personnel patrolled the streets, although occasional gunshots can still be heard.
Meanwhile, police broke up a protest and made arrests in Aktau town and sporadic gunshots were heard in Kyzylorda, Russian agency Sputnik reported.
Mr Tokayev announced that a day of national mourning to commemorate those killed in the unrest would take place on Monday.
The presence of Russian-led CSTO military forces in Kazakhstan at the invitation of Tokayev comes at a time of high tension in East-West relations as Russia and the United States prepare for talks on the Ukrainian crisis next week.