President of Kazakhstan orders "shoot to kill" against protesters

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The president of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, said in a televised message on Friday that he authorized security forces to "shoot to kill without warning" against protesters protesting the increase in the price of gas in that former Soviet republic. .

Tokayev argued that it is "stupid" to negotiate with the protesters, whom he described as "criminals and murderers."

He also said that Russian peacekeepers are temporarily in the country at his request to ensure security.

Earlier, the president said in a statement that constitutional order had been largely restored after a week of protests.

“Local authorities control the situation, but terrorists are still using weapons and damaging property of citizens. Therefore, anti-terrorism actions will continue until the militants are completely eliminated, ”the note said.

Riot police block protesters in a plaza in downtown Alma Ata, Kazakhstan, on January 5, 2022.

The agency Reuters reported that shots were still heard during the morning in Alma Ata, the largest city in the Central Asian country.

The Interior Ministry reported in a statement that 26 "armed criminals" were "liquidated" and more than 3,000 were arrested. He added that 18 members of the police and national guard have died since the protests began.

The demonstrations began last week in the west of the country over the doubling of the price of fuel, but they spread so quickly throughout the nation that some political observers suggest they reflect popular discontent after three decades of authoritarianism since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In news videos recorded in the streets of Alma Ata, security forces, some in armored vehicles, are observed repeatedly firing at a crowd of protesters in Republic Square,

A representative of one of the protesting groups told Radio Free Europe / Radio Libertad that most of the people in the square were unarmed.

Russia's Tass news agency reported Thursday night that the square had been cleared of protesters, but sporadic gunfire continued. Reuters and the AP also reported sporadic shooting.

Given the seriousness of the situation, Tokayev requested the military presence of Russia under the terms of a collective security treaty existing between some former Soviet republics.

When Russian troops began arriving in Kazakhstan on Thursday, the United States warned them not to take control of Kazakh institutions.

"The United States and the rest of the world will be watching for any human rights violations," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

"We hope that the government of Kazakhstan can soon address the problems, which are primarily economic and political in nature," added Price, noting that the United States is a "partner" of the Central Asian nation.

For his part, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi on Thursday about the emergency situation in the country, Price said in a statement.

Blinken reiterated "the full support of the United States to the constitutional institutions and freedom of the press in Kazakhstan, and vowed for a peaceful and rights-respecting solution to the crisis."

[Con información de AP, AFP y Reuters]

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