You are the leader in an authoritarian state. Mobs are on the street, government buildings are on fire, some radio stations have gone off the air, and police units have been filmed surrendering. You might be going down, so, it’s decision time. Shoot enough protestors to crush the uprising, or rely on violent but ostensibly non-lethal riot control?

In the early hours of Thursday morning, Kazakhstan’s President Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev made his choice. Troops backed by armoured personal carriers appeared at key points in the city of Almaty and opened fire. According to police spokeswoman Saltanat Azirbek, “dozens of attackers were liquidated”. The government said in addition to those who had been killed, about a thousand people had been injured and up to 400 were in hospital. About 2,000 people have been detained arrested in Almaty alone.