Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan): Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has ordered security forces to “kill without warning” to crush the violent protests that reportedly left dozens dead. Kazakh state media reported on Friday that 18 security personnel and 26 “armed criminals” had been killed in violent protests, reported CNN. More than 3,800 people have been detained so far, Kazakh state media reported, citing the country’s Internal Affairs Ministry. More than 100 people were arrested while carrying out “terrorist actions,” the state media added.
In Almaty, the country’s largest city, several dead bodies riddled with bullets lay in the streets and the air was repeatedly filled with gunfire, according to a journalist in the area, reported CNN. In a defiant public address Friday, Tokayev claimed the unrest, which began earlier this week as protests against rising fuel prices, had been masterminded by well-trained “terrorist bandits” from both inside and outside the country.
Tokayev said the situation had “stabilized” in Almaty, and that the “introduction of a state of emergency is yielding results”. “But terrorists continue to damage state and private property and use weapons against citizens,” he said. “I gave the order to law enforcement agencies and the army to open fire to kill without warning,” reported CNN. Tokayev doubled down on that rhetoric on Twitter later, writing 20,000 “gangsters and terrorists” were involved in at least “six waves of attacks” in Almaty this week and added: “No talks with the terrorists, we must kill them.
“The government has control over the centre of Almaty near the president’s residence and mayor’s office, and three large military checkpoints have been set up, the journalist told CNN. If anyone goes near the checkpoints, military forces shoot into the air. It is not clear whether they are shooting live or rubber rounds, the journalist said.
Tokayev’s speech attempted to undermine the narrative that the demonstrations were a product of popular unrest that turned increasingly destructive and deadly. However, several protesters who spoke to international media rejected that characterization. “We are neither thugs nor terrorists,” one woman said. “The only thing flourishing here is corruption”. Another man told CNN that people “want the truth,” adding, “The government is rich, but all of these people here have loans to pay. We have our pain, and we want to share it.
“The demonstrations are the biggest challenge yet to the autocrat’s rule, with initial public anger over a rise in fuel prices expanding to wider discontent with the government over corruption, living standards, poverty and unemployment in the oil-rich nation — all of which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, experts said.
“This is a government that is highly detached from the reality of what happens on the ground. It’s a country where there are no institutions through which to protest; the only route is on the streets,” Paul Stronski of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told CNN.