Kazakhstan president vows to kill ‘terrorist’ protesters while calling in Russian help
Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev says his security forces will “shoot to kill without warning” and labelled protesters as foreign-backed “terrorists”.
Eyewitness reports suggest the real number of casualties could be much higher than the 26 “armed criminals” and 18 security officers that the interior ministry claims have been killed. More than 4,000 people have reportedly been detained by the authorities.
Tokayev, 68, asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for military assistance and said order had been largely restored although “counterterrorist” operations would continue.
“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 in a television address. He tweeted in English: “In my basic view, no talks with the terrorists: We must kill them.” The tweet was later deleted.
Putin rapidly deployed troops and armoured vehicles through the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), which the Kremlin uses to challenge Nato. Most of the 2,500 troops deployed by the pact are from Russia.
Russian troops helped retake Almaty’s airport after it was seized by protesters.
The CSTO was founded in 1999 and this is its first joint military deployment.
Tokayev’s request for Russian help could make energy-rich Kazakhstan a more willing ally to Moscow after years of trying to build ties with China and the west.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken questioned the need for CSTO troops. He told the media: “It would seem to me that Kazakh authorities and governments certainly have the capacity to deal appropriately with protests, to do so in a way that respects the rights of protesters while maintaining law and order. So it’s not clear why they feel the need for any outside assistance.”
Peaceful protests began last Sunday over a hike in LPG prices, which is used to fuel many Kazakh cars.
The demonstrations soon gathered momentum to include anger over corruption, inequality and the ongoing influence of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Media reports said Nazarbayev, 81, flew out of Kazakhstan on a private jet during the week.
On Saturday the former president’s spokesman said he was still in Nur-Sultan, the capital city renamed after Nazarbayev.
Nazarbayev calls himself the “leader of the nation” or “elbasy” in Kazakh. He resigned as president in 2019 but is thought to wield considerable power within the government.
Central Asian regimes have no tolerance for protests. Picture credit: YouTube