President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has arrived in Almaty, his first visit to Kazakhstan's largest city since deadly riots last week prompted him to invite troops from the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to stabilize the situation amid an apparent standoff with loyalists of former President Nursultan Nazarbaev.
Spokesman Berik Uali said that Toqaev took part in a session of the city's emergency task force on January 12 and met with relatives and colleagues of law enforcement officers killed during the violence, initially sparked by a sharp fuel-price hike. The exact number of people killed in the violence remains unclear.
The riots started with peaceful protests by residents of the remote western region of Manghystau over a sharp hike in the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
The peaceful protests morphed into a rally against wider economic and political grievances before erupting into a spasm of violence, with mobs ransacking and torching public buildings and stores in Almaty, the former Soviet republic's commercial capital of 1.8 million people, and elsewhere.
Kazakh media reported on January 12 that another 1,700 people had been detained since the violence subsided, bringing the total number of detentions during the unrest to almost 10,000.
In the face of a mounting crisis, Toqaev declared a state of emergency on January 5 and called on the CSTO to deploy troops to help maintain security.
At the same time, he dismissed his cabinet and removed the 81-year-old Nazarbaev as head of the National Security Council, a powerful position from which the longtime leader continued to exert considerable influence over the oil-rich Central Asian state.
Toqaev also fired the head of the National Security Committee (KNB), longtime Nazarbaev ally Karim Masimov, and then had him arrested for high treason. Several other security officials were also detained.
The president reiterated that the foreign troops will begin their withdrawal on January 13, adding the CSTO contingent of just over 2,000 soldiers "played a very big part from the point of view of stabilizing the situation in our country."