Constitutional order was “mainly restored” in Kazakhstan on Friday, according to president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. However, the spate of unrest is seemingly far from over, with almost 4,000 people detained and dozens killed.
Mass protests in Kazakhstan began on January 2, prompted by public discontent with a sharp increase in prices for liquefied petroleum gas. The unrest quickly spread, turning violent in some places, including the largest city; the former capital Almaty.
Security forces back ‘in control’
President Tokayev claimed on Friday morning that the country’s security forces have managed to largely restore constitutional order in all the regions with local authorities now back “in control” of the situation. The state of emergency will now therefore be gradually lifted, the president said.
Use of lethal force authorized
The use of lethal force was also authorized by Tokayev, who announced the launch of an anti-terrorist operation and dismissed the notion of negotiating with “bandits and terrorists” as “nonsense”.
Law enforcement and the military are now allowed to use lethal force and “shoot to kill without warning.”
Dozens injured & killed, thousands detained
Almost 4,000 people have been detained around the country since the beginning of the unrest, while 26 armed people have been killed, according to statistics from Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry.
Almaty has remained a hotspot of violence, with reports of explosions and damaged police vehicles. However, by Friday evening, shooting in the city center had become less intensive, according to TASS news agency. In the western city of Aktobe, seven Kazakh police officers were injured, while in Shymkent, according to media reports, over 60 people, including military and police officers, were injured.
Baikonur terror threat level raised
The level of terror threat in the city of Baikonur, where the Baikonur Cosmodrome is located, was raised to ‘blue’ on Friday in connection with the national unrest, the local administration said.
Officials underlined the move was purely a precautionary measure and the situation there remains “stable and controlled.” The ‘blue’ level will remain in effect until January 19. A curfew was also introduced to cover the same period.
Russia holds talks with CSTO allies
Russian President Vladimir Putin also held talks with member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) on Friday.
Peacekeepers from Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan were deployed to Kazakhstan earlier this week, with Tokayev saying they would stay “for a limited period of time” to support the local security forces.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense later clarified that the CSTO forces have also been tasked with the protection of important facilities and key infrastructure and were not supposed to participate in “operational and combat” activities.
The EU has also offered the bloc’s assistance to help resolve the crisis with several countries calling on both the protesters and government forces to refrain from violence.