Troops boarding a plane bound for Kazakhstan (Image: AP)

Thousands of troops from a Russian-led security alliance arrived in Kazakhstan on January 6 at the request of the country’s president, who has vowed to restore order amid spiraling unrest that has left dozens of protesters dead, according to local police.

The protests began on January 2 over a hike in fuel prices but quickly spread throughout the country, driven by long-standing grievances over corruption and inequality. In the country’s former capital, Almaty, demonstrators clashed with police and set fire to government buildings. On Friday, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said he had authorised the use of lethal force against protesters.

The protests are unprecedented in oil-rich Kazakhstan, the wealthiest country in Central Asia and one that has been ruled with an iron fist for three decades. Another first: the deployment of troops from the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for the first time since its founding.