Unrest in Kazakhstan: Troops have been told to fire without warning

Unrest in Kazakhstan: Troops have been told to fire without warning
Kazakh service members stand guard at a checkpoint in Almaty/courtesy of reuters

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

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev also claimed that “20,000 bandits” attacked Almaty, the epicenter of protests sparked by increased fuel prices.


He has blamed “terrorists” with foreign training without providing evidence.


So far, the unrest has claimed the lives of 26 “armed criminals” and 18 security officers.


Mr. Tokayev said in a televised address that Russian and neighboring state peacekeeping forces had arrived at his request and were in the country temporarily to ensure security.


Approximately 2,500 soldiers are said to be part of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). Mr. Tokayev thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin “specially” for sending troops.


“What kind of talks can we hold with criminals and murderers?” President Tokayev said, dismissing calls for talks with protesters as “nonsense.”


He continued, ” “We had to deal with both local and foreign bandits who were armed and well-prepared. Specifically with terrorists. As a result, we must destroy them, which we will do as soon as possible.”


Fresh gunfire was heard near Almaty’s main square earlier on Friday.


Kazakhstan: The Fundamentals


What happened to it? Kazakhstan is bordered to the north by Russia and to the east by China. It is a massive country that is roughly the size of Western Europe.


What difference does it make? First, it is a former Soviet republic with a large Russian minority with vast mineral resources, including 3% of global oil reserves and significant coal and gas industries.


What’s the big deal about it? Fuel riots have erupted into broader anti-government protests, resulting in top-level resignations and a bloody crackdown on demonstrators.


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


According to the government, fuel price caps will be reinstated for six months. The announcement, however, has failed to put an end to the demonstrations, which have now expanded to include other political grievances.


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



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