Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Friday issued a shooting order to kill security forces in the face of protesters after a week of unrest in the Central Asian country.
In a nationally televised address, the president said: âTerrorists continue to damage public and private property and use weapons against civilians. I ordered the police to shoot to kill without warning.
In the speech, Tokayev rejected international calls for his government to negotiate with the protesters. He continues to claim, without proof, that they are formed and organized by anonymous foreign entities.
He called on the protesters bandits and terrorists who must be destroyed and promised it would be done shortly. He also thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for quickly sending troops, at Tokayev’s request, to help quell the protests.
Meanwhile, Kazakh authorities have arrested Karim Massimov, a former head of the National Security Committee, who was sacked earlier this week as protests erupted across the country. He is being held for high treason.
Protests erupted in Kazakhstan late last week against fuel prices and escalated into widespread violence.
Leaders outside the region reacted to developments in the country on Friday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was “very concerned” about the state of emergency in Kazakhstan.
“We are watching the situation with real concern and we encourage everyone to find a peaceful solution,” he said.
The State Department on Friday approved the “voluntary departure” of non-emergency US government workers and their families from the US consulate in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city.
A State Department notice also warned that the situation in Kazakhstan could affect the ability of the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan to provide assistance to U.S. citizens leaving the Central Asian nation.
In Berlin, Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger said Germany was still investigating reports from Kazakhstan, but questioned the use of lethal force against civilians and said that the government was responsible for the protection of its citizens.
At a joint press conference in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron, European Council President Ursula Von der Leyen called for the protection of the rights and security of Kazakh citizens, and the two leaders called for an end violence. France currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also called on Friday for an end to the violence in Kazakhstan.
Speaking after chairing a virtual NATO meeting in Brussels, Stoltenberg said alliance members were concerned about the situation in Kazakhstan and said the rights of peaceful demonstration and freedom of expression should be respected.
United Nations spokesman StÃ©phane Dujarric called on Kazakhstan to respect “human rights and international standards while restoring public order”.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday praised Tokayev for “taking decisive action at critical times and quickly calming the situation,” and called the protesters’ violence a “full-scale riot.”
China has invested heavily in Kazakhstan, which is a crucial part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative project linking China to Europe.
Feng Chongyi, associate professor of Chinese studies at the Sydney University of Technology, told VOA’s Mandarin service that China is “very concerned about the spillover effects” of violence in Kazakhstan, which could encourage citizens of neighbors of Kazakhstan, or even Chinese citizens, to rise up. against their government.
He also noted that while China and Russia often work together internationally against the United States, they also have their own conflicts with each other, which he said could erupt due to the violence in Kazakhstan. . He said that if Kazakhstan moves closer to Russia due to the current situation, it will pose a threat to China’s interests.
Reports from Almaty said that while sporadic gunfire could be heard early Friday, the unrest appeared to have ended, with similar reports coming from other towns.
Demonstrations began late last week in the west of the country to protest the doubling of fuel prices. But because they grew and spread so quickly, some political observers suggest they reflect a wider discontent in the country which has lived under authoritarianism since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
On Friday, Kazakhstan’s interior ministry said security forces killed 26 protesters during the unrest and said 18 law enforcement officials were killed. He said more than 3,800 people had been arrested. The figures could not be independently verified.
Some information for this report comes from The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.