Kazakh president: Forces can shoot to kill to quell unrest

·2 min read

MOSCOW — Kazakhstan’s president authorized security forces on Friday to shoot to kill those participating in unrest whom he called “terrorists,” opening the door for a dramatic escalation in a crackdown on anti-government protests that have turned violent.

The Central Asian nation this week experienced its worst street protests since gaining independence from the Soviet Union three decades ago, and dozens have been killed in the unrest. The demonstrations began over a near-doubling of prices for a type of vehicle fuel but quickly spread across the country, reflecting wider discontent with authoritarian rule.

In a televised address to the nation, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev used harsh rhetoric, referring to those involved in the turmoil as “terrorists,” “bandits” and “militants”—though it is unclear how peaceful protests gathered steam and then descended into violence.

“I have given the order to law enforcement and the army to shoot to kill without warning,” Tokayev said. “Those who don’t surrender will be eliminated.” He also blasted calls for talks with the protesters made by some countries as “nonsense.” “What negotiations can be held with criminals, murderers?” Tokayev asked.

Amid the growing crackdown, internet service has been severely disrupted and sometimes blocked, and several airports closed, including one in Almaty, the country’s largest city—making it difficult to get information about what’s happening inside the country. Cellphone service have been severely disrupted as well.

Tokayev has also called on a Russia-led military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, for help, and troops began arriving Thursday. Their involvement is an indication of concern among Kazakhstan’s neighbors, particularly Russia, that the unrest could spread.

Kazakhstan, which spans a territory the size of Western Europe, borders Russia and China and sits atop colossal reserves of oil, natural gas, uranium and precious metals that make it strategically and economically important. Despite that wealth, discontent over poor living conditions is strong in some parts of the country. (AP)

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