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New York: The United Nations on Friday called on all involved in unrest in Kazakhstan to exercise restraint, abstain from violence and resolve their grievances through peaceful means.

The country is facing its worst street protests since gaining independence from the Soviet Union three decades ago, and dozens have reportedly been killed.

“It is important that the violence stops,” Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York.

“The killing of police officers is unacceptable; There is also the killing of protesters. There is a clear need to respect human rights and international standards in any situation when we restore public order.”

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has called the protesters “terrorists”. Responding to anti-government protests on Friday, he authorized security forces to shoot.

Demonstrations began on January 2, after fuel prices nearly doubled, and quickly spread across the country.

On Thursday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, reminded Kazakh officials that any use of force must be subject to “the strict requirements of necessity and proportionality”.

She said: “Lethal force, especially live ammunition, should only be used against specific individuals as a last resort to address the imminent threat of death or grievous injury.”

A police spokesman in Kazakhstan’s main city of Almaty said security forces had killed dozens of protesters. More than 1,000 people have reportedly been injured.

According to the Kazakh Interior Ministry, 12 police officers were killed and more than 300 were injured during the unrest.

“International law is clear: people have the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression,” Bachelet said. “At the same time, protesters, no matter how angry or sad they are, should not resort to violence against others.”

Internet service in Kazakhstan has been severely disrupted since Sunday, including intermittent complete shutdowns. Bachelet warned against denying people the right to access to information and freedom of expression, adding: “Shutting down the Internet is not the answer to a crisis but risks fueling violence and unrest.”

She urged the Kazakh government to immediately restore full access to the Internet, pointing out that it is “critical for emergency health services during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He called upon the authorities to ensure the importance of dialogue and protection of human rights in the event of emergency and beyond.