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Ex-security chief arrested as Kazakhstan presses crackdown on unrest


Apart from heading the intelligence agency that replaced the Soviet-era KGB, Massimov was twice prime minister and worked closely with former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the country’s ruler for three decades until he turned over the presidency to Tokayev in 2019.

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There were no details of the treason allegations. The security service said other officials were also detained, but did not name them.

On Friday, a pro-government politician said on television he had information that the security forces had been ordered to abandon Almaty airport so protesters could take it over. He said they had left a security building in the city undefended, enabling people to seize weapons.

It was not immediately possible to verify this account. The airport remains closed but is now under the control of Kazakh security personnel and Russian troops, according to Russia’s defence ministry.

The demonstrations began as a response to a fuel price hike but swelled into a broad movement against Tokayev’s Russian-backed government and 81-year-old Nazarbayev.

Tokayev removed Nazarbayev on Wednesday as head of the country’s Security Council, a role in which he had continued to wield significant influence. Interfax news agency reported on Saturday that the council’s deputy head had also been fired.

A car, which was burned after clashes, is seen on a street in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

A car, which was burned after clashes, is seen on a street in Almaty, Kazakhstan.Credit:

In Almaty, where security forces have reclaimed control of the streets since Friday, a Reuters reporter said occasional gunshots were heard on Saturday.

Some businesses began to reopen in the city of around 2 million people as people ventured out to buy supplies, and queues formed at petrol stations.

Security forces patrolled the streets. The deputy mayor was quoted by Russia’s RIA news agency as saying operations to purge the city of “terrorists and bandit groups” were still under way and citizens were advised to stay at home.

In the capital Nur-Sultan, Reuters filmed police stopping drivers at a checkpoint with armed soldiers nearby.

The interior ministry said more than 4,400 people had been detained since the start of the unrest. Tokayev announced a national day of mourning for Monday to commemorate those killed.

Access to the internet, which was been largely shut down in Kazakhstan for days, was still heavily disrupted on Saturday.

The deployment of the Russia-led CSTO military alliance at Tokayev’s invitation comes at a time of high tension in East-West relations as Russia and the United States prepare for talks next week on the Ukraine crisis.

Moscow has deployed large numbers of troops near its border with Ukraine but denies US suggestions it is planning an invasion, saying it wants guarantees that NATO will halt its eastward expansion.

Reuters



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