ALMATY, Jan 7 (Reuters) – Security forces appeared to have reclaimed the streets of Kazakhstan’s main city on Friday after days of violence, and the Russian-backed president said he had ordered his troops to shoot to kill to put down a countrywide uprising.
A day after Moscow sent paratroopers to help crush the insurrection, police were patrolling the debris-strewn streets of Almaty, although some gunfire could still be heard.
Dozens have died and public buildings across Kazakhstan have been ransacked and torched in the worst violence the ex-Soviet republic has experienced in 30 years of independence.
Moscow said more than 70 planes were ferrying Russian troops into Kazakhstan, and that these were now helping control Almaty’s main airport, recaptured on Thursday from protesters.
The uprising has prompted a military intervention by Moscow at a time of high tension in East-West relations as Russia and the United States gear up for talks next week on the Ukraine crisis.
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev blamed foreign-trained terrorists for the unrest, without providing evidence.
“The militants have not laid down their arms, they continue to commit crimes or are preparing for them,” Tokayev, 68, said in a televised address.
“Whoever does not surrender will be destroyed. I have given the order to law enforcement agencies and the army to shoot to kill, without warning.”
The demonstrations began as a response to a fuel price hike but swelled into a broad movement against Tokayev’s government and former President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Nazarbayev, 81, was the longest-serving ruler of any ex-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.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has discussed the situation with Tokayev in several phone calls during the crisis, the Kremlin said on Friday.