'Shoot to kill' Kazakh president tells police as protests escalate

Demonstrations over fuel price increases have been met with violence by security forces

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Kazakstan's president ordered security forces to "shoot to kill" to quash protests on Friday after thousands of arrests, dozens of deaths and Russian intervention in the uprising.

Gunfire on Friday still crackled over the capital Almaty, the scene of the most violent encounters between demonstrators and police.

"The militants have not laid down their arms, they continue to commit crimes or are preparing for them. The fight against them must be pursued to the end. Whoever does not surrender will be destroyed," President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said in a televised address.

"I have given the order to law enforcement agencies and the army to shoot to kill without warning." ​

Mr Tokayev blames foreign-trained terrorists for the worst violence in the Central Asian state's 30 years of independence.

Protests over fuel price increases have evolved into a movement against the government, particularly former leader Nursultan Nazarbayev – widely regarded as the man who still holds sway over Kazakh politics despite handing power to Mr Tokayev three years ago.

Mr Nazarbayev has not been seen or heard from since the protests began. Mr Tokayev has sought to distance himself from his predecessor, removing Mr Nazarbayev and his nephew from security posts since the protests began.

Widespread unrest has been reported in a number of other cities across the vast country of 19 million people. The internet has been shut off since Wednesday, making it difficult to determine the full extent of the violence.

Mr Tokayev said the internet had be turned back on in some areas for short periods, but warned people against posting "fabrication, defamation, insults [and] messages of incitement".

"In case of appearance of such materials, we will take measures for the detection and punishment of their authors,” he said.

Russia's defence ministry, cited by Interfax, said more than 70 planes were flying round the clock to move Russian troops into Kazakhstan, and they were now helping to control Almaty's main airport, recaptured on Thursday from protesters.

Moscow's swift deployment demonstrated the Kremlin's readiness to use force to maintain its influence in parts of the former Soviet Union. The troops were sent under the umbrella of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation comprising Russia and five former Soviet allies. It said its force would number about 2,500 and would stay in Kazakhstan for a few days or weeks.

Moscow was "standing up for Kazakhstan and doing as allies should", said Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko.

Amid the chaos, some countries called on citizens in Kazakhstan to return home. The Kuwaiti embassy in Kazakhstan asked Kuwaitis in the Central Asian country to leave "for their safety". It also urged Kuwaitis who wanted to travel to Kazakhstan to postpone their plans "because of the emergency status" in the country.

Updated: January 07, 2022, 4:20 PM