UN rips Kazakhstan after troops seen wearing blue helmets

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The United Nations criticized Kazakhstan after the country's troops were seen wearing blue helmets, a symbol reserved for U.N. peacekeepers, while quelling protests.

Kazakhstani President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called in troops to assist the country after protests erupted over high fuel prices and the autocratic government that has been in power the past two decades.

The troops, who were told to "shoot to kill" by the president, were wearing blue helmets that resembled those used by U.N. peacekeepers. The U.N. raised concerns about the use of the helmets, U.N. spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said Monday, The Washington Post reported.

"Countries are to use U.N. insignia only when they are performing their mandated tasks as U.N. peacekeepers in the context of their deployment within a U.N. peacekeeping operation," Dujarric said.

Kazakhstan's ambassador to the United Nations said on Twitter that there was no "UN" marking on gear worn by those responding to the protests, except for local peacekeepers, and "all necessary measures" were used to prevent equipment associated with the U.N. being used in "counter-terrorism operations" during the protests.

Tokayev has said, without evidence, that the protesters were foreign-backed terrorists who were sent to destabilize the country.

At least 164 people have been killed and nearly 10,000 have been arrested since the protest began at the beginning of January, according to the Post.

Russian troops, which came to assist at the request of Tokayev, will be leaving the country in two days.

"In two days' time, a phased withdrawal of the CSTO united peacekeeping contingent will begin. The withdrawal process of the contingent will take no more than 10 days," Tokayev said, referring to the Collective Security Treat Organization, a military alliance of six ex-Soviet nations.