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Turkmen leader tightens controls after unrest in Kazakhstan

January 13, 2022 GMT

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) — Turkmenistan’s autocratic leader ordered his government Thursday to tighten controls over the ex-Soviet Central Asian country following massive protests in neighboring Kazakhstan.

In televised remarks, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov told officials to more closely control the internet to “expose and restrict (online) resources that spread false information and damage the country’s constitutional order.”

He also ordered local authorities to tighten the oversight of internal migration flows and make sure that they register all those who move from one region to another.

The Turkmen president directed the National Security Ministry to strengthen the protection of the country’s citizens from the influence of foreign radical and extremist groups.

Berdymukhamedov, 64, has ruled the gas-rich desert country since 2006 through an all-encompassing personality cult that styles him as Turkmenistan’s “arkadaq,” or protector.

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His statement follows massive protests that rocked the neighboring ex-Soviet nation of Kazakhstan this month.

The demonstrations, sparked by public outrage over a sharp rise in fuel prices, quickly engulfed the entire country and descended into violence for several days, with dozens killed in clashes, government buildings stormed and torched and stores looted.

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has blamed the unrest on foreign-backed “terrorists” and requested assistance from the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russia-led military alliance of six ex-Soviet states. Last week, the bloc sent over 2,000 troops, who began to pull out from Kazakhstan Thursday after Tokayev declared their mission accomplished.