The president of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, has issued a shoot-to-kill order against the protesters threatening his authoritarian government's survival.
"I have given orders to the security forces and the army to open fire without warning," Tokayev said in a televised address on Friday, rejecting international calls for dialogue:
"What stupidity! What kind of negotiations can there be with criminals and murderers?"
Tokayev claimed that a total of 20,000 "bandits" had attacked the country's biggest city Almaty, where the violent unrest has been particularly fierce in recent days. He also said that the "terrorists" were directed from abroad, though he did not elaborate.
On Friday morning, state television reported that 26 demonstrators had been killed and over 3,000 arrested since the unrest began. Officials said that at least 18 members of the security forces had also lost their lives.
Airport "under control"
Meanwhile, Russian soldiers have brought the airport in Almaty "under full control," authorities in Moscow said on Friday.
The Russian troops had worked with their Kazakh counterparts to restore order to the airport, Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said, according to the Interfax news agency.
The airport's operations were disrupted after anti-government protesters, angered by rising fuel prices, occupied the transport hub earlier this week.
Russia deployed troops to the former Soviet state after Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev asked for help in putting down the demonstrations.