Kazakhstan unrest: Troops ordered to fire without warning

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Kazakhstan unrest: Troops ordered to fire without warning

  • Kazakhstan's authoritarian leader says he has ordered security forces to ""fire without warning"", amid a violent crackdown on anti-government protests.
  • President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev also said ""20,000 bandits"" had attacked the main city of Almaty, the epicenter of protests sparked by a fuel price hike.
  • He blamed foreign-trained ""terrorists"", without giving evidence.
  • The interior ministry says 26 ""armed criminals"" and 18 security officers have been killed so far in the unrest.

About the issue

  • The protests that broke out in Kazakhstan on January 2 over a fuel price hike.
  • It turned into the biggest political crisis the oil-rich Central Asian country’s leadership has faced in over three decades.
  • Dozens of people, including citizens and police officers, have been killed as protests continue to rage in Kazakhstan, the worst street unrest since the country gained independence 30 years ago.
  • Thousands have reportedly been arrested in Almaty and of the hundreds injured, at least 60 are in intensive care.
  • Kazakhstan, which broke away from the Soviet Union to become an independent republic in 1991, has been tightly ruled by “strong men” ever since.

About the Kazakhstan

  • Where is it?

: Kazakhstan shares borders with Russia to the north and China to the east. It is a huge country the size of Western Europe.

  • Why does it matter?

: A former Soviet republic which is mainly Muslim with a large Russian minority, it has vast mineral resources, with 3% of global oil reserves and important coal and gas sectors.

  • Why is it making the news?

: Fuel riots, which have escalated to become broader protests against the government, have resulted in resignations at the top and a bloody crackdown on protesters.

Global Response

  • Peacekeeping forces sent from Russia and neighbouring states had arrived on his request.
  • The Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) reportedly has about 2,500 soldiers.
  • The European Commission, which is the EU executive, offered ""assistance where we can"" to help Kazakhstan resolve the crisis.
  • It also called for an end to the violence, echoing earlier statements from the UN, US, UK and France.

Outcome predictions

  • Dealing with the protests only through force, including with help from Russia — the Belarus model - would not resolve the underlying issues.
  • The other option, the most sensible one, is to reach out to the angry public, hold consultations and build consensus to enter a new social contract with the people of Kazakhstan.
  • Fuel price caps will be restored for six months. But the announcement has failed to end the protests, which have broadened to include other political grievances.