White House, UN appeal for 'restraint' by Kazakh authorities

Kazakhstan has been roiled by protests since the start of the year which escalated into clashes with police on Jan 5, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House and the United Nations on Wednesday (Jan 5) urged Kazakh authorities to show restraint in dealing with violent civil unrest, as the government there declared a state of emergency after protests.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said protesters should be able to "express themselves peacefully," urging the authorities "to exercise restraint."

State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned destruction of property but also criticised the Internet blackout by the government.

"We ask for all Kazakhstanis to respect and defend constitutional institutions, human rights and media freedom, including through the restoration of Internet service," Mr Price said in a statement. "We urge all parties to find a peaceful resolution of the state of emergency."

The United Nations also called for all parties to "exercise restraint, refrain from violence and promote dialogue."

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the international body was following events in the Central Asian country "with concern."

Kazakhstan on Wednesday declared a nationwide state of emergency after protests over a fuel price hike erupted into clashes and saw demonstrators storm government buildings.

Ms Psaki said "crazy Russian claims" about a US hand behind the mass demonstrations are "absolutely false and clearly a part of the standard Russian disinformation playbook."

The country has been roiled by protests since the start of the year which escalated Wednesday into clashes with police.

Authorities cut Internet and mobile phone access nationwide and earlier declared states of emergency in the epicentres of the rallies - financial capital Almaty and Mangystau province - as well as in the capital Nur-Sultan, where no demonstrations have so far been reported.

The state of emergency was later extended across the entire ex-Soviet country.

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