Friday, December 2

Kazakhstan crisis: police said to ‘shoot to kill without warning’ to end unrest, says president

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said on Friday that he was authorizing law enforcement agencies to open fire “without warning” to end chaotic unrest in the country.

“I have given the order to shoot to kill without warning,” Tokayev said in a televised speech, adding that “terrorists continue to damage property and use weapons against citizens.”

He rejected any negotiation and promised to “eliminate” those he described as “armed bandits”, claiming that 20,000 stormed the great city of Almaty with a “clear plan”.

His speech came hours after he said in a statement that “constitutional order has been largely restored in all regions,” adding that operations to restore law and order would continue “until the militants are completely destroyed. “.

Almaty, the economic capital of Kazakhstan, saw gunfire and explosions with police forces firing actual rounds on Thursday afternoon after surrounding a group of about 200 people, the Russian news service Sputnik reported.

The army was also deployed on Thursday afternoon, including Russian paratroopers dispatched by Moscow after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called on the regional intergovernmental military organization CSTO to intervene.

Military personnel regained control of the main airport, previously taken by protesters. On Thursday night, battles resumed in Almaty’s main square, alternately occupied by troops and hundreds of protesters for much of the day.

Scores of protesters were reported to have died earlier in the day after dissatisfaction over gasoline prices on Sunday snowballed into the biggest demonstrations in Kazakhstan since it declared independence from the Soviet Union.

Anger over the near doubling of gasoline prices has grown to include other complaints, including poor living conditions in some areas, as well as 30 years under the same party rule.

The Kazakh authorities confirmed the provisional death toll.

“Last night, extremist forces attempted to raid administrative buildings, the Almaty city police department, as well as local police departments and stations,” police spokesman Saltanat Azirbek told the state news channel Khabar-24.

“Dozens of assailants have been eliminated and their identities are being identified,” he added.

Azirbek said an “counterterrorism” operation was underway in one of Almaty’s districts where the unrest was most violent.

More than 1,000 people were also injured in the protests, city authorities told Khabar-24, with 400 hospitalized and 62 in intensive care. Twelve law enforcement officers were also killed and 353 others were injured. Some 2,000 people have been arrested.

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Authorities also claim that at least one of the dead police officers was found beheaded.

‘Foreign terrorists’

President Tokayev on Wednesday demanded the help of Russia and its allies to quell the unrest in recent days, which he said were supported by “foreign terrorists.”

“Today I called on the heads of state of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to help Kazakhstan defeat the terrorist threat,” Tokayev said on state television, adding that the demonstrations are led by “terrorist gangs” who “They have received extensive training abroad.” “.

Nikol Pashinyan, Prime Minister of Armenia and president of CSTO agreed to the lawsuit, saying in a statement Thursday morning that a “collective CSTO peacekeeping force” would be in the country “for a limited period to stabilize and normalize the situation there.”

The decision, he said, was made because of “the threat to Kazakhstan’s national security and sovereignty, caused, among other things, by outside interference.”

CSTO member states include Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

“The main tasks of the CSTO Peacekeeping Collective Forces will be the protection of important state and military facilities, assisting the public order forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan to stabilize the situation and return to the rule of law” said the alliance. in a sentence.

Tokayev had removed the government on Tuesday and declared a two-week state of emergency and a night curfew.

But the protests did not abate and police used stun grenades, tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters in the southeastern city of Almaty, the country’s economic and intellectual capital, on Tuesday night and Wednesday.

The main city administration building and the presidential residence were engulfed in flames on Wednesday after protesters, many of them carrying clubs and shields, according to Kazakh media reports, entered.

Demonstrations have also been reported in around a dozen other cities.

Ceiling on fuel prices and prohibition of food exports

Protesters have chanted anti-government slogans such as “The government resigns!” and “Out with the old man!” referring to former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who remains highly influential as a mentor to the current leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and the honorary Elbasy, or “Leader of the Nation.”

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The Kazakh government initially tried to calm the protesters by reducing the price of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to 50 tenge (€ 0.1) per liter, compared to 120 at the beginning of the year.

This represented a significant increase in a country where the minimum wage is 42,500 tenge (€ 98.7) a month, but that strategy did not stop the protests.

The Mangystau region relies on LNG as its main source of fuel for automobiles and any increase in its price leads to an increase in food prices, which have already risen since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Following the removal of the government, Deputy Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov will assume the role of interim prime minister until a new cabinet is formed.

A six-month price limit for fuel was introduced on Thursday, which aims to “stabilize the socio-economic situation,” the prime minister’s website announced.

The export of certain types of food products was also banned to stabilize prices.

Airports in Almaty, the main cities of Aktobe and Aktau and the capital Nur-Sultan were not operating on Thursday after flights were canceled the day before.

Independent media down amid internet outages

Amid the protests, Kazakhstan is experiencing a “nationwide internet outage,” according to internet monitoring observatory Netblocks.

The country also suffered “mobile internet outages” on Tuesday, Netblocks added in a report.

“This incident is likely to severely limit coverage of the growing anti-government protests,” Netblocks said.

Popular messaging services WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal were unavailable in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, while the websites of two independent media outlets also appeared to be blocked.

In the context of problems in the functioning of the Internet, Central Bank spokeswoman Oljassa Ramazanova announced the suspension of the work of all financial institutions in the country.

What has been the international response?

The United States said it is “closely following” events in Kazakhstan, which the State Department described in a statement late Wednesday as “a valued partner.”

“We condemn acts of violence and destruction of property and call for restraint on the part of both the authorities and the protesters,” he added, asking “that all Kazakhs respect and defend constitutional institutions, human rights and freedom of the press, including by restoring Internet service. “

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“We urge all parties to find a peaceful resolution to the state of emergency,” he said.

Meanwhile, Russia has called for “dialogue” with the Foreign Minister, adding in a statement that “they support a peaceful solution to all problems within the legal and constitutional framework and through dialogue, not through street disturbances and violation of laws. laws”.

Kazakhstan is of crucial importance to Russia as an economic partner and the former president is a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.

London called for a peaceful resolution to the protests and a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters on Thursday: “We are concerned about the violent clashes and we are closely monitoring developments.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged all parties involved in the crisis, including Russia and its CSTO allies, to “show restraint” and “open a dialogue”, describing the events of the 24 hours ago as “extremely worrying”.

Josep Borrell, the European’s diplomatic chief, stressed that “the rights and security of the civilian population must be guaranteed.”

“External military assistance brings back memories of situations that must be avoided,” he said, adding that the bloc “is ready to support the approach to this crisis.”

Temur Umarov, scientific adviser to the Carnegie Moscow Center, told Euronews that the protests are more than fuel prices. Expect the dialogue to take place, as long as the riots don’t get out of hand.

“The reforms will be on the way. In fact, we have been seeing them for the last few years. It is a trend that would have happened without the protests, but now it will accelerate and the authorities will go for them even more,” he added. Umarov explained.

“But they are possible only if the protests do not cross a line on which the authorities will think they are in some kind of stalemate. And then we will see the violence.”

“Kazakhstan is not a democracy, but if we compare the regime of Kazakhstan with other regimes in Central Asia (in Uzbekistan, for example, or in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and the ever-changing Kyrgyzstan) we can see that Kazakhstan is more or less democratic compared to other countries, “he concluded.

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