Witness recalls seizure of Kazakh airport

Russian national Anton Zelenov's vacation to Kazakhstan was anything but relaxing.

"We had already started taxiing. At some point, we stopped. The aircraft captain announced that we could not download location equipment or weight indicators, so we had to wait for a little bit. After another ten minutes he says, 'Sorry, the airport has been seized by protesters. Nobody will take off today'."

Back in Moscow, he recalled how he found himself caught up in a wave of protests that sparked the deadliest outbreak of violence in the country’s 30 years of independence.

What started as demonstrations against fuel prices, escalated into wider protests against the government, leading to rioting on the streets.

Dozens have been killed, thousands detained and public buildings torched after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev issued shoot-to-kill orders to end the unrest.

Zelenov was in Almaty when the protests began.

"On the 2nd and the 3rd (of January), we walked around the city. Everything was quiet. Only the central square, the independence monument was closed. The police didn't let anyone in. We tried to take the back streets to go sightseeing. We reached the square. The police didn't let us into the square but allowed us to take pictures. But there were no protesters. There was nothing there."

Zelenov said things took a turn on January 5, when he heard stun grenades in the city.

He decided to head to the airport to escape the rising violence.

After the captain announced its seizure, Zelenov said he spent around 12 hours on the plane before passengers were taken to a shuttle bus bound for the border with Kyrgyzstan.

He described what he saw.

"Private houses were ok, but the highways looked like something had happened there. And at some point, we passed a vandalized barricademade from burnt cars. We bypassed it. But there were no protesters, no one was controlling it."

Kazakhstan authorities said on Sunday they had stabilised the situation across the country, and troops from a Russian-led military alliance were guarding "strategic facilities".

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