Kazakh authorities say 26 rebels have been “liquidated” and are warning that the remaining protesters will be “hunted down”.
In a televised speech, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev made serious threats against protesters protesting for the sixth day in a row.
The protests were triggered by increased gas prices in the country, but there has long been dissatisfaction with corruption and camaraderie among the country’s leaders and in the government.
According to Reuters, the president said that they have set up a separate group that will “hunt down and arrest” what he refers to as terrorists.
He also said that he had informed his forces that they could now open fire on the protesters without warning.
– I gave orders to police forces and the army to open fire to kill, without warning, he said.
At the same time, the president refused to hold talks with the protesters to resolve the situation.
“Those who do not surrender will be destroyed,” he said.
He also claimed that around 20,000 “bandits” had attacked Almaty, where clashes between security forces and protesters have been strongest.
For much of Thursday, the internet and mobile network were turned off in the country, with only state-owned television available to most Kazakhs.
On Friday, it was also reported that the internet is down throughout the country, but the president says that this will be restored in some parts of the country during the day.
This is what it looks like in the center of the country’s largest city, Almaty, on Friday:
1 of 4Foto: MARIYA GORDEYEVA / Reuters
The situation in the country is confusing, and there is little information that is released via channels other than those linked to the authorities.
The Kazakh Interior Ministry claims that it has “liquidated” what they call 26 “armed criminals”, reports Reuters.
It is unclear whether it is a question of during the night until Friday or whether they state the number for the entire period of demonstrations.
In addition, the ministry says that a total of 18 members of the security forces have so far been killed and several hundred injured. They also state that they have arrested more than 3,000 people.
The Russian state news agency Tass reports on Friday morning that the shooting continues in the center of Almaty, in the southeast of the country.
The news agency also writes about killed people lying in the middle of the road.
The Guardian also reports that around 400 protesters will be hospitalized as a result of the government’s handling of the demonstrations.
NOTE! Strong images from the demonstrations and riots in Almaty:
1 of 6Photo: ALEXANDER BOGDANOV / AFP
Russian forces sent to the country
President Tokayev has tried several measures to gain control of the situation. He has dissolved the government, introduced a national state of emergency, which will last until January 19, and introduced a curfew at night in the country’s largest cities.
And on Wednesday, he asked for help from former Soviet states to “stabilize and normalize” the situation in the country.
A Russian-led “peacekeeping force” of about 2,500 soldiers from the CSTO alliance was sent to the country on Thursday.
On Thursday, Russian authorities published photos of Russian forces boarding military aircraft.
The riots are also said to have spread to large parts of the country.
And on Friday, the president of Kazakhstan said that “for the most part” order has been restored in the country.
It is expected that he will speak to the nation during Friday.
The Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that the task of the “peace forces” is to secure and protect strategic goals, writes Tass.
Earlier this week, protesters took control of Almaty International Airport, among other places.
But according to Tass, the “peacekeeping forces” together with Kazakh security forces must have taken control of the airport on Friday morning.
According to protesters, the protests began peacefully earlier in the week, but became violent after a harsh response from the government.
Extensive dissatisfaction with high gas prices is said to have been the trigger for the demonstrations. But the dissatisfaction with an authoritarian government that is corrupt and nepotistic, is also highlighted as the underlying causes of the demonstrations.
According to Freedom House, which measures the degree of democracy in countries, Kazakhstan’s citizens are not free. The country has a score of 23 out of 100 on their freedom index. By comparison, Norway has 100, the United States 83, while China has 9.
The Kazakh opposition figure Mukhtar Abljazov, who is in France as a political refugee, said on Friday morning that he considers himself the leader of the opposition in the country and the leader of the protests.
He also says he will fly back to Kazakhstan to lead a provisional government if the demonstrations reach the right level.
The Kazakh Interior Ministry has previously warned that insurgents who did not listen to the demand for their weapons would be killed, according to the Russian state news agency Ria Novosti, which also reports that all government buildings on Friday were cleared of protesters.
The UN and the EU are among those who have expressed concern about the situation, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has in talks with his Kazakh counterpart called for a peaceful solution to the situation.