Caspian Region

Kazakh President Issues Shoot-to-Kill Order as Violence Continues

ALMATY, KAZAKHSTAN - JANUARY 6, 2022: Security forces are used in a counterterrorism operation to stop mass unrest. Protests were sparked by rising fuel prices in the towns of Zhanaozen and Aktau in western Kazakhstan on 2 January and spread rapidly across the country. Following a meeting between a government commission and protesters, the price for liquefied petroleum gas went down from $0.27 to $0.11. On 5 January, President Tokayev dismissed the cabinet and declared a 2 week state of emergency in the Mangistau and Almaty regions, as well as in the cities of Almaty and Nur-Sultan. Valery Sharifulin/TASS.

Moscow (dpa) - Shoot-to-kill orders are in effect against protesters in Kazakhstan, with President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev saying they threaten his authoritarian government's survival.


He claimed, as he issued the order, that Kazakh security forces have the unrest under control.


"I have given orders to the security forces and the army to open fire without warning," Tokayev said in a televised address, rejecting international calls for dialogue as "stupidity" and asking: "What kind of negotiations can there be with criminals and murderers?"


Demanding "anti-terrorist operations" continue until the "fighters are eliminated," Tokayev claimed that some 20,000 "bandits" had rioted in the country's biggest city, Almaty, and suggested, without giving any details, that the unrest had been directed from abroad.


Early on Friday, state television reported that 26 demonstrators had been killed and more than 3,700 detained since the unrest began, while officials put the death toll for the security forces at 18.


Demonstrators clash with law enforcement officers during a protest triggered by fuel price increase in Aktobe, Kazakhstan January 5, 2022, in this still image taken from a video. Video taken January 5, 2022. Interior Ministry of Kazakhstan/Handout via REUTERS 

Almaty, Kazakhstan's economic hub, has now seen days of rioting, including the torching of government buildings and mass looting. Independent news channels showed footage of smoke rising from buildings and reported the sound of gunfire.


The country's internet has been cut, mobile phone networks are barely functioning and the borders have been sealed, making information almost impossible to verify.


"I actually only get from Almaty what I see on TV," a Kazakh journalist who lives in the capital, Nur-Sultan, told dpa on Friday.


A correspondent for the Russian daily newspaper Kommersant described conditions in Almaty as "apocalyptic," saying that gunfire could be heard day and night. The city administration was in flames after being stormed by demonstrators, he said.


The arrival of Russian troops in the country appears to have given the Kazakh authorities significant relief, however, with Moscow announcing that Almaty airport was once again "under full control" after anti-government protesters occupied it earlier this week.


Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev delivers a televised address in Nur-Sultan. DPA via Reuters

Russia's troop deployment came in response to a request to the Russian-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization from Tokayev asking for help in putting down the anti-government demonstrations, which were sparked by soaring fuel prices.


The Chinese government appeared to shift its position on the unrest when it voiced its support for the Russian-led military intervention on Friday.


President Xi Jinping wrote to Tokayev, praising him for acting "highly responsibly" by taking "decisive and effective measures" and quickly calming the situation.


Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Office spokesperson Wang Wenbin told the press in Beijing that China firmly opposed external forces deliberately creating social unrest to incite violence. Just a day earlier Wang had called the unrest in its western neighbour an "internal affair."


European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she was following events in Kazakhstan with "great concern."


"Citizens' rights and security are essential and must be guaranteed," she said at a press conference in Paris. "I call for an end to violence and for restraint."