The death toll in Kazakhstan jumped from the previous figure of 44 to now at least 164 people, local media reports citing government officials have revealed. The anti-government protests have recently turned deadly as security forces and demonstrators clashed in different parts of the country.
Kazakhstan's presidential office said Sunday that close to 6,000 people had now been arrested, including several foreign nationals. Kazakhstan's former intelligence chief and the former prime minister had, reportedly, been arrested on suspicion of treason.
Two former deputies who worked under Massimov were also removed from their posts. The president's office did not provide any details on why the two former deputies were removed.
The Kyrgyzstan government had lodged a complaint against Kazakhstan following the arrest of a Kyrgyz jazz musician, who was shown badly beaten in a video that circulated online. Kazakh officials said the musician, Vikram Ruzakhunov, had participated in the protests.
Local reports claimed that at least 103 deaths had been reported in the city of Almaty. Security forces reportedly fired upon rioters while attempting to restore order.
Several protesters attempting to take over the city's police stations were also reportedly killed. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said that over "20,000 bandits" had attempted to take over the city, and he had ordered security forces to "fire without warning."
The unrest began early in the month after the government decided to increase prices for liquefied petroleum gas. The move sparked a nationwide outcry, which also underscored the ongoing public discontent in the government and former President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The violent clashes, protests, and destruction of public infrastructure had forced the government to seek assistance from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) - a Russia-led post soviet alliance that includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
Last week, Russia deployed troops to Kazakhstan to engage in "cleanup" operations and secure public facilities. Kazakhstan has declared a state of emergency, and a nationwide curfew has been put in place.
International media reported that the capital city of Nursultan has been secured, and troops have set up checkpoints at public facilities, including the Presidential Palace.
The international community has condemned the violence in Kazakhstan. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized Tokayev's approach in handling the unrest. Blinken said the president's shoot-to-kill order was "wrong" and should be "rescinded" immediately. Blinken said the U.S. is now attempting to seek clarification from the Kazakhstan government, particularly why it had sought the presence of Russian troops.