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Kazakhstan’s president gave the country’s security services the green light to use deadly force against anti-government protesters Friday, warned that those who refused to surrender would be “eliminated.”
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared in a nationally televised address that he had ordered “law enforcement and the army to shoot to kill without warning” in the event of further disturbances.
Tokayev said the order was given after 20,000 “bandits” attacked the largest city and financial capital Almaty and destroyed state property. He also referred to those involved in the unrest as “terrorists” and “militants.”
Street protests have been raging in Kazakhstan all week — and dozens have already been killed. The demonstrations initially erupted over the near-doubling of fuel prices, but quickly spread across the country, reflecting wider discontent with its authoritarian rule.
The protests are the worst upheaval the country has seen since gaining independence from the Soviet Union three decades ago.
It wasn’t immediately clear how the peaceful protests gathered steam and descended into violence before escalating sharply on Wednesday.
Tokayev also blasted calls by some countries for him to hold talks with protesters as “nonsense.”
“What negotiations can be held with criminals, murderers?” Tokayev asked during his remarks.
Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry stated Friday that security forces had already killed 26 protesters during the unrest. Another 26 protesters were wounded and more than 3,800 people have been detained.
A total of 18 law enforcement officers were reported killed and over 700 injured, the government said.
Tokayev called on a Russia-led military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, for help as the violence escalated Wednesday. He said Friday that peacekeeping forces from Russia and neighboring states would remain in Kazakhstan on a temporary basis to ensure security.
Tokayev also repeated allegations that “foreign actors” and “independent media” had helped incite the turmoil.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday dismissed suggestions the US had anything to do with the unrest, calling it “crazy Russian claims.”
“We’re monitoring reports of protests in Kazakhstan. We support calls for calm, for protesters to express themselves peacefully and for authorities to exercise restraint,” she said.
“There are some crazy Russian claims about the US being behind this. Let me just use this opportunity to convey that as absolutely false, and clearly a part of the standard Russian disinformation playbook.”
With Post wires