Armored personnel carriers and troops arrive in Almaty on Thursday * Internet in the Asian country had been shut down * Eight police and national guard troops killed, 317 injured.
Several armored personnel carriers and dozens of troops moving on foot entered the main square of Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city, on Thursday morning where hundreds of people were protesting against the government for the third day, Reuters correspondents reported from the scene.
Gunshots were heard as troops approached the crowd, according to Reuters witnesses.
Protesters had seized control of the airport of Kazakhstan's biggest city Almaty on Wednesday, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters, as the Central Asian country was hit by a wave of unrest that started with demonstrations against fuel price rises.
All flights to and from Almaty are temporarily canceled, the source said.
Kazakhstan's internal affairs ministry said on Wednesday evening that eight police and national guard troops were killed and 317 were injured in several regions during the riots.
Demonstrators stormed and torched public buildings, the worst unrest for more than a decade in the tightly controlled country.
The Cabinet resigned, but that failed to quell the anger of the demonstrators, who have taken to the streets in response to a fuel price increase from the start of the new year.
Though the unrest was triggered by the price rise, there were signs of broader political demands in a country still under the shadow of three decades of one-man rule.
Nursultan Nazarbayev, 81, took office as president of the former Soviet republic in 1990 and only stepped down in 2019. He retained authority as ruling party boss and head of a powerful security council.
An Instagram live stream by a Kazakh blogger showed a fire blazing in the office of the mayor of the main city, Almaty, with apparent gunshots audible nearby. Videos posted online also showed the nearby prosecutor's office burning.
Earlier on Wednesday, Reuters journalists saw thousands of protesters pressing towards Almaty city center, some of them on a large truck. Security forces, ranked in helmets and riot shields, fired tear gas and flash-bang grenades.
The city's police chief said Almaty was under attack by "extremists and radicals," who had beaten up 500 civilians and ransacked hundreds of businesses.
A presidential decree announced a two-week state of emergency and a nighttime curfew in the capital Nur-Sultan - named after the former president. It cited a "serious and direct security threat to citizens."
States of emergency were also declared in Almaty and in the westerly Mangistau province, where protests first broke out.
Reuters journalists reported the internet had been shut down as the unrest spread. Netblocks, a site that monitors global internet connectivity, said Kazakhstan was "in the midst of a nation-scale internet blackout."
Though the unrest was triggered by a fuel price rise, there were signs of broader political demands in a country still under the shadow of three decades of one-man rule.
Footage showed police and security officials in civilian clothes breaking up a small group of protesters in the city of Shymkent, hauling away men and pushing them into a police car and a white van as some chanted "Nazarbayev, go away!"
In the city of Aqtobe, what appeared to be several hundred protesters gathered on a square shouting: "Old Man, go away!." A video posted online showed police using water cannons and stun grenades against protesters near the mayor's office there.
Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the unrest in Kazakhstan in a conversation with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko on Wednesday, the Belarusian news agency Belta said.
The White House urged calm and restraint on Wednesday in reaction to protests in Kazakhstan where demonstrators stormed and torched public buildings in the republic's worst unrest for more than a decade.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Russian accusations that the United States had instigated the unrest were "absolutely false."
Peacekeepers from a Russian-led alliance of ex-Soviet states will be sent to Kazakhstan to help stabilize the country following mass protests, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Thursday, in a statement published by Russia's news agency.
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev earlier appealed for help from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance of Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
The United States later condemned violence and property destruction in Kazakhstan and called on protesters and authorities to exercise restraint, the State Department said in a statement.
Calling Kazakhstan "a valued partner," the statement urged all Kazakhstanis "to respect and defend constitutional institutions, human rights, and media freedom, including through the restoration of internet service."
SOURCE: The Jerusalem Post