MOSCOW (AP) – The President of Kazakhstan said yesterday he authorised law enforcement to open fire on “terrorists” and shoot to kill, a move that comes after days of extremely violent protests in the former Soviet nation.
In a televised address to the nation, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev blamed the unrest on “terrorists” and “militants” and said that he had authorised the use of lethal force against them. “Those who don’t surrender will be eliminated,” Tokayev said.
He also blasted calls for talks with the protesters made by some other countries as “nonsense”. “What negotiations can be held with criminals, murderers?” Tokayev said.
Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry reported yesterday that 26 protesters had been killed during the unrest, 18 were wounded and more than 3,000 people have been detained. A total of 18 law enforcement officers were reported killed as well, and over 700 sustained injuries.
Kazakhstan is experiencing the worst street protests since the country gained independence three decades ago. The demonstrations began over a near-doubling of prices for a type of vehicle fuel and quickly spread across the country, reflecting wider discontent over the rule of the same party since independence.
Protests have turned extremely violent, with government buildings set ablaze and scores of protesters and more than a dozen law enforcement officers killed. Internet across the country has been shut down, and two airports closed, including one in Almaty, the country’s largest city.
In a concession, the government on Thursday announced a 180-day price cap on vehicle fuel and a moratorium on utility rate increases. Tokayev has vacillated between trying to mollify the protesters, including accepting the resignation of his government, and promising harsh measures to quell the unrest, which he blamed on “terrorist bands”.