Morning Sun

President: Forces can shoot to kill to quell unrest

- By Dasha Litvinova

MOSCOW » Kazakhstan’s president authorized security forces on Friday to shoot to kill those participat­ing in unrest, 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 tumult. The demonstrat­ions began over a near-doubling of prices for a type of vehicle fuel and 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 was unclear what led the peaceful protests to first gather steam and then descend into violence. No protest leaders have emerged so far.

“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.”

Concerns grew in recent days that an even broader crackdown might be coming, as internet and cellphone service was severely disrupted and sometimes totally blocked, and several airports closed — making it difficult to know what was happening inside the country and for images of the unrest to reach the outside world.

Adding to those fears was Tokayev’s request for help from a Russia-led military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organizati­on, whose troops began arriving Thursday.

On Friday, Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry reported that security forces have killed 26 protesters during the unrest, which escalated sharply on Wednesday. Another 26 were wounded and more than 3,800 people have been detained. A total of 18 law enforcemen­t officers were reported killed, and over 700 injured.

The numbers could not be independen­tly verified, and it was not clear if more people may have died in the melee as the protests turned extremely violent, with people storming government buildings and setting them ablaze.

More skirmishes in Almaty were reported on Friday morning. Russia’s state news agency Tass reported that the building occupied by the Kazakh branch of the Mir broadcaste­r, funded by several former Soviet states, was on fire.

In other parts of the country, the unrest appeared to be dying down. On Friday morning, news reports said the internet was partially restored in the capital, Nur-sultan, but it remained unclear for how long. Officials also announced resuming previously halted train services.

 ?? RU-RTR RUSSIAN TELEVISION VIA AP ?? A Kazakhstan’s soldier stands next to a military vehicle
RU-RTR RUSSIAN TELEVISION VIA AP A Kazakhstan’s soldier stands next to a military vehicle

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