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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Kazakhstan unrest: Troops ordered to fire without warning


Kazakhstan’s authoritarian leader says he has ordered security forces to “fire without warning”, amid a violent crackdown on anti-government protests.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev also claimed that “20,000 bandits” attacked Almaty, the epicentre of protests sparked by a fuel price increase.

He blamed foreign-trained “terrorists,” but provided no evidence.

According to the interior ministry, 26 “armed criminals” and 18 security officers have been killed in the unrest thus far.

Mr Tokayev dismissed calls for talks with protesters as “nonsense” in a televised address, saying, “What kind of talks can we hold with criminals and murderers?”

“We had to deal with armed and well-prepared local and foreign bandits. To be more specific, with terrorists. So we must destroy them, which we will do as soon as possible “He stated.

The authorities’ accusations of terrorism have been rejected by opposition groups.

Earlier, the president declared that constitutional order had been restored to a large extent. According to a BBC correspondent in Almaty, the situation has calmed down after days of violence, though there have been reports of gunfire and explosions.

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Kazakhstan: The basics

Where is it? Kazakhstan shares borders with Russia to the north and China to the east. It is a huge country the size of Western Europe.

Why does it matter? A former Soviet republic which is mainly Muslim with a large Russian minority, it has vast mineral resources, with 3% of global oil reserves and important coal and gas sectors.

Why is it making the news? Fuel riots, which have escalated to become broader protests against the government, have resulted in resignations at the top and a bloody crackdown on protesters.

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President Tokayev stated that peacekeeping forces dispatched from Russia and neighbouring states had arrived at his request and were temporarily stationed in the country to ensure security.

The Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) force is said to number around 2,500 soldiers. Mr. Tokayev expressed “special gratitude” to Russian President Vladimir Putin for dispatching troops to the former Soviet republic.

The internet appears to have been restored in some areas, and Kazakh officials and CSTO troops were in control of Almaty’s main airport a day after it was retaken from protesters.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has offered “assistance where we can” to assist Kazakhstan in resolving the crisis. It also called for an end to the violence, echoing previous statements from the United Nations, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.

The unrest began on Sunday, when the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which is used to fuel many cars in Kazakhstan, doubled.

The government has stated that fuel price caps will be reinstated for a period of six months. However, the announcement has not put an end to the protests, which have expanded to include other political grievances.

Kazakhstan is frequently described as authoritarian, and the ruling party wins nearly all elections with nearly 100 percent of the vote. There is no viable political alternative.

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