Kazakhstan leader orders security forces to 'kill without warning' to quell violent protests

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(CNN)Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has ordered security forces to "kill without warning" to stop the violent protests that have paralyzed the former Soviet republic.

In a defiant public address Friday, Tokayev said the unrest that began earlier this week as protests against rising fuel prices had been masterminded by well-trained "terrorist bandits" from both inside and outside the country.

Tokayev said the situation had "stabilized" in Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, and that the "introduction of a state of emergency is yielding results."

    "But terrorists continue to damage state and private property and use weapons against citizens," he said. "I gave the order to law enforcement agencies and the army to open fire to kill without warning."

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      The speech attempted to undermine the narrative that the demonstrations were a product of popular unrest that turned increasingly destructive and deadly. Tokayev said the violence was the product of a well-coordinated enemy, armed with sleeper cells carrying out "terrorist attacks" and "specialists trained in ideological sabotage, skillfully using disinformation or 'fakes' and capable of manipulating people's moods."

        "Their actions showed the presence of a clear plan of attacks on military, administrative and social facilities in almost all areas, coherent coordination of actions, high combat readiness and bestial cruelty," Tokayev said. "They need to be destroyed."

        The demonstrations are the biggest challenge yet to the autocrat's rule, with initial public anger over a rise in fuel prices expanding to wider discontent with the government over corruption, living standards, poverty and unemployment in the oil-rich nation, according to human rights organizations.

          Protesters in Almaty reportedly stormed the airport, forcibly entered government buildings, and set fire to the city's main administration office, local media reported. Dozens were reported killed and hundreds more injured in clashes there Thursday.

          Tokayev, in his address, highlighted that peaceful assembly was legalized in 2020 to promote democracy. However he said calls from abroad to find a peaceful solution were "nonsense."

          "What kind of negotiations can there be with criminals, murderers?" Tokayev added.

          Tokayev said a contingent of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Russian-led military alliance made up of former Soviet states, has arrived in the country "for a short period of time" to carry out the functions of defense and support.

            The Kazakh leader thanked the heads of CSTO countries for their support and expressed "special gratitude" to Russian President Vladimir Putin for "very promptly and, most importantly, in a friendly manner reacted warmly to my appeal" for a CSTO contingent.

            He also thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping, the presidents of the other CSTO member countries, the presidents of Uzbekistan, Turkey and "the leaders of the UN and other international organizations for their words of support."

            CNN's Joshua Berlinger contributed to this report

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