Monday, May 16, 2022|
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MOSCOW — Kazakhstan authorities said Sunday that 164 people, including a 4-year-old girl, were killed in a week of protests that marked the worst unrest since the former Soviet republic gained independence 30 years ago.
The office of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said order has been restored in the Central Asian country and that the government has regained control of all buildings that were taken over by the protesters. Some of the buildings were set on fire.
Sporadic gunfire was heard Sunday in Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, according to the Russian TV station Mir-24, but it was unclear whether those were warning shots by law enforcement. Tokayev said Friday he had authorized a shoot-to-kill order for police and the military to restore order.
The demonstrations, which began in the western part of Kazakhstan, began Jan. 2. over a sharp rise in fuel prices and spread throughout the country, apparently reflecting wider discontent with the authoritarian government. They prompted a Russia-led military alliance to send troops to the country.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Tokayev’s order “something I resolutely reject.”
“The shoot-to-kill order, to the extent it exists, is wrong and should be rescinded,” he said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
“And Kazakhstan has the ability to maintain law and order, to defend the institutions of the state, but to do so in a way that respects the rights of peaceful protesters and also addresses the concerns that they’ve raised – economic concerns, some political concerns,” Blinken added.
The same party has ruled Kazakhstan since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Anyone aspiring to oppose the government has either been repressed, sidelined, or co-opted, amid widespread economic hardship despite the country’s enormous reserves of oil, natural gas, uranium and minerals.
About 5,800 people were detained during the unrest, Tokayev’s office said.
The death toll of 164, reported by the state news channel Khabar-24 and citing the Health Ministry, was a significant increase from previously announced totals. It was unclear if that number referred only to civilians or if law enforcement deaths were included.
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