Putin-backed Belarus dictator in talks with embattled Kazakh leader as Russia tightens grip on former Soviet orbit

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Eyewitnesses said that some shops have opened selling basic foodstuffs but that most people are still hiding in their apartments. From Almaty, one resident told the Telegraph that she could still hear gunshots.

“There are shotgun sounds in the city centre and Republic Square area,” Kuralay said. “We haven’t seen any CSTO soldiers yet but we are not going far from our neighbourhoods and only go out to buy food or find a bank machine. People don’t understand who the terrorists are.”

The United States, which is evacuating non-essential staff from its consulate in Almaty, has also criticised the Russian intervention with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying that Kazakhstan could deal with the unrest alone.

‘Once Russians are in your house, it’s sometimes very difficult to get them to leave’

“One lesson of recent history is that once Russians are in your house, it’s sometimes very difficult to get them to leave,” he said at a press briefing in Washington.

Russia’s ministry of foreign affairs responded by calling Mr Blinken’s comments “boorish”.

“US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tried to make a funny joke today about the tragic events in Kazakhstan,” it said in a statement on Facebook. Russian media also reported that Russia is preparing to evacuate its citizens from Almaty.

Mr Tokayev requested the CSTO intervention but it is still controversial.

Analysts have said that the Russian troop deployment may threaten the sovereignty of Kazakhstan, the wealthiest country in Central Asia, and that the CSTO risks becoming a military alliance used just to prop up Mr Putin’s allies.

The CSTO has not deployed in more than two decades. It refused to step into ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan in 2010 that killed hundreds of people but acted within hours of statues of Mr Nazarbayev, who hired Sir Tony Blair as an adviser in 2011, being toppled by protesters.

The anti-government protests began in West Kazakhstan a week ago after a fuel price spike. They rapidly spread across the country, triggering the worst violence in Kazakhstan since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Protesters complain about elite corruption, the stagnant economy and poor social services.

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