The president of Kazakhstan on Friday declared that constitutional order was “mainly restored” after the country was engulfed in unprecedented unrest in recent days.
“An anti-terror operation has commenced. Law enforcement agencies are working hard. Constitutional order has been mainly restored in all regions of the country. Local authorities are in control of the situation,” Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was quoted by his spokespeople as saying Friday.
The president added, however, that “terrorists are still using weapons and are damaging people's property” and that “counterterrorist actions” should be continued.
Kazakhstan is experiencing the worst street protests since the country gained independence three decades ago. The demonstrations began over a near-doubling of prices for a type of vehicle fuel and quickly spread across the country, reflecting wider discontent over the rule of the same party since independence.
Protests have turned extremely violent, with government buildings set ablaze and scores of protesters and more than a dozen law enforcement officers killed. Internet across the country has been shut down, and two airports closed, including one in Almaty, the country's largest city.
In a concession, the government on Thursday announced a 180-day price cap on vehicle fuel and a moratorium on utility rate increases. Tokayev has vacillated between trying to mollify the protesters, including accepting the resignation of his government, and promising harsh measures to quell the unrest, which he blamed on “terrorist bands.”
In what was seen as one such measure, the president has called on a Russia-led military alliance for help.
The alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, includes the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and has started deploying troops to Kazakhstan for a peacekeeping mission.
Kazakh officials have insisted that the troops will not be fighting the demonstrators, and instead will take on guarding government institutions.
Kazakhstan's Interior Ministry reported Friday that 26 protesters had been killed during the unrest, 18 were wounded and more than 3,000 people have been detained. A total of 18 law enforcement officers have been reported killed as well, and over 700 sustained injuries.
Skirmishes in Almaty were still reported on Friday morning, but in other parts of the country some things started to go back to normal. In the capital, Nur-Sultan, access to the internet has been partially restored, and train traffic has been resumed across Kazakhstan.
The Almaty airport will remain shut until Friday evening, local TV station Khabar-24 reported, citing the airport's spokespeople.
Tokayev is expected to address the nation on Friday afternoon.