BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – At least 5,800 people have been detained and more than 2,000 injured during several days of violence in Kazakhstan last week, government officials said Sunday, after protests sparked by a fuel price hike sparked a crisis. politics and led the president to seek help from a Russian-led security alliance to restore order.
The protests, which began last weekend in western Kazakhstan and spread thousands of miles east, also left the country’s most populous city, Almaty, in chaos.
On Sunday, government officials said the chaos had “gradually stabilized” and that thousands of people had been swept up in an “counterterrorism” operation.
On Monday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, along with the leaders of other members of the Collective Treaty Security Organization, an alliance of several former Soviet states, will discuss the situation in Kazakhstan via video conference. To help quell the unrest, the alliance deployed around 2,500 troops to the country, including Russian paratroopers protecting “vital facilities and social infrastructure,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The deaths of dozens of protesters and some security officials had previously been reported, and on Sunday the Kazakh Health Ministry said at least 164 people had been killed in the violence, including 103 in Almaty. But that figure was later questioned when the message was removed from an official Kazakh government channel on Telegram, a social messaging app. The Information Ministry told Orda.kz, a local news site, that the message had been published after a technical error.
It is difficult to assess exactly what is happening inside Kazakhstan, which has been largely isolated from the outside world. Its main airports are still closed or operating at limited capacity, and Internet services and phone lines are mostly down.
The political crisis was sparked after protests, initially peaceful, began last Sunday over a fuel price hike in an oil city in western Kazakhstan and quickly swept across the country. Almaty became something of a war zone, with the main government buildings burned down and the airport stormed by a mob.
The speed with which the protests went from peaceful to chaotic fueled rumors that public discontent over rampant corruption in the oil-rich Central Asian nation may have been used by various factions within the government to fight each other.
Mr. Kazykhan did not offer evidence to support his claims, nor did he elaborate on who the government thought organized the groups or what it thought was their ultimate goal. He added that the government had not been fighting peaceful protesters, only “violent mobs who were committing blatant acts of terror.”
On Saturday, the government said it had arrested Karim Masimov, the former head of its main security agency, on Thursday, a day after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev removed him from office at the height of the crisis.
The government said on Sunday that unrest was easing, including in Almaty, with some public transport delayed and some shops, many of which had been looted, reopening.