Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said he has personally ordered security forces to “open fire with lethal force” without warning against protestors amid a violent uprising currently gripping the Central-Asian country.
In an address on Friday, referring to the protestor as “bandits and terrorists”, Tokayev said lethal force would continue to be used, and blamed “so-called free media outlets” for fanning the flames of unrest.
“Abroad, there are calls for the two sides to hold negotiations for a peaceful resolution. What idiocy. What kind of negotiations can you have with criminals? We were dealing with armed and well-prepared bandits, both local and foreign. Bandits and terrorists, who should be destroyed. This will happen in the nearest time,” Tokayev said.
Protests started earlier this week following a hike in fuel prices on 31 December.
While the cabinet has resigned and the fuel price increase has been reversed, the uprising has continued, exacerbated by long-running tensions over economic and political woes.
While the exact death toll is not yet known, authorities reported dozens of protestors had been killed, along with 18 members of the security forces.
An update sent to EURACTIV by the Kazakh Embassy in Brussels said that more than 1000 people had been injured, with 400 hospitalised. Of those, 60 are in intensive care.
Kazakh authorities also said 353 local police officers were injured, three police officers were decapitated, and 50 police cars burned.
In addition, they tallied over 110 businesses that had been targeted, looted, and vandalised, totalling tens of millions of euros in damage.
The president claimed that the situation was now under control across the country, taking the opportunity to thank the 2,500 Russian paratroopers drafted in to assist with maintaining order in the former Soviet state.
According to the BBC, despite the claims of calm, fresh gunfire has been reported in Almaty.
A press release from the embassy also described the demonstrators as “terroristic and criminal groups attempting to destabilise the situation in Kazakhstan.”
“The President of the Republic of Kazakhstan called it the undermining of the state integrity. The attack on our citizens is the most aggravating,” the statement reads.
It continues that “these terrorist gangs are, in fact, international, who have undergone special training abroad. Therefore, the attack on Kazakhstan should be viewed as an act of aggression.”
Tokayev has consistently pointed to outside forces as the source of unrest.
The protests were “caused, among other things, by outside interference,” said Nikol Pashinyan, the Armenian leader who currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the CSTO security pact, when announcing that allies would send troops led by Russia on Wednesday evening.
It is the first time the organisation has agreed to deploy forces under the collective security provision to a member since its creation in 1992.
The Kazakh government said it is undertaking several measures, including creating an “Investigation Task Force” among representatives from the prosecutor, internal affairs ministry, and various security, law, and enforcement agencies to pinpoint the cause of the unrest and “bring all perpetrators to criminal and administrative responsibility.”
Commenting on the Russian presence in Kazakhstan, the EU said it must respect the country’s sovereignty and independence.
An EU spokesperson said that Kazakhstan’s independence must be respected, adding that “the violence must be stopped. We are also calling for restraint from all parties and a peaceful resolution of the situation. Now obviously, the EU is ready and willing to support dialogue in the country,”
On Thursday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell expressed “great concern” over the unrest in Kazakhstan, insisting civilian rights had to be protected and sounding a warning over foreign military involvement.
“Rights and security of civilians must be guaranteed. External military assistance brings back memories of situations to be avoided,” Borrell wrote on Twitter.