Karim Massimov (C), recently ousted chairman of the National Security Council of Kazakhstan, has been arrested. File Photo by Kensburo Fukuhara/EPA-EFE
Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Authorities have arrested the recently ousted head of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee, Karim Massimov, on suspicion of treason amid unrest after spike in gas prices.
The intelligence agency, a successor to the Soviet Committee for State Security, or KGB, said in a statement Saturday obtained by The New York Times that Massimov was arrested on Thursday, a day after Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev removed him from the NSC chairman post.
Massimov, who served as prime minister of Kazakhstan under former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, was arrested along with several other officials, according to the agency.
His dismissal and arrest comes amid deadly clashes this week in anti-government protests in response to fuel price spike that spread to Almaty, the country's largest city.
Tokayev ordered police Friday to open fire "with lethal force" and without warning on protesters, who he called violent bandits and terrorists.
The violence in Almaty's streets between anti-government protestors and police largely subsided overnight Friday, according to The Washington Post.
Still, dozens of protesters and at least 18 officers were killed in the clashes, which began over rising fuel prices but also signaled wider discontent for government among citizens.
Tokayev had also appealed earlier this week for a Russian-led military alliance to send peacekeepers to the country amid a state of emergency in the capital city Nur-Sultan, along with Almaty, after protests turned violent.
Since then, about 2,500 Russian-led troops have arrived in the country, BBC News reported.
Also, officials have shut off Internet access as demonstrators demanded the ouster of the authoritarian government.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has questioned the Russian neighbor and former Soviet republic's decision to seek Russian military aid to deal with the civil unrest.
"One lesson of recent history is that once Russians are in your house, it's sometimes very difficult to get them to leave," Blinken told reporters at a State Department briefing Friday.