Russia sends troops to Kazakhstan as clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters escalate

Moscow – Russia has sent military hardware and paratroopers to Kazakhstan as part of a “peacekeeping” mission at the request of President Qasim Jomart Tokayev. The Kazakh leader has vowed to cancel. Massive protests across the country It started with gas prices, but it has increasingly become a major challenge to the dictatorial leadership of the former Soviet republic.

Protests turned deadly on Thursday. Police in the country’s largest city, Almaty, told local channel Khabar 24 that “dozens” of protesters had been “expelled” after attempts to storm government buildings.

Twelve law enforcement officers were also killed, including two who were allegedly beheaded, state TV said. More than 1,000 people were injured across the country, health officials said.

An AFPTV video shot on January 5, 2022, shows protesters clashing with Kazakh security forces during a demonstration in Almaty amid unprecedented unrest in the Central Asian country. During the clashes in Almaty, protesters took police gear and tear gas, killing several people.

Alexander Platonov / AFPTV / AFP / Getty

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Moscow-led coalition of six former Soviet states – Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan – immediately sent additional forces to back up Tokayev’s own security services. Approved This was CSTO’s first major operation since its inception more than 20 years ago.

The CSTO did not confirm the size of the Russian deployment in Kazakhstan, but local media reported that 3,000 troops had been sent to support the Kazakh forces.

Kazakhstan has been embroiled in anti-government riots throughout the week, beginning with complaints over fuel prices but soon becoming political. Demonstrators demanded a change of government and the complete withdrawal of Tokayev’s patron and predecessor, Nursultan Nazarbayev, from politics.

Protests in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstani Acting President Qasim Jomarat Tokayev, right, and former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev shake hands in front of supporters in Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan, June 7, 2019.

Alexei Filippov / AP

Nazarbayev elected Tokayev after stepping down as the country’s first president in 2019, but he remained head of the Security Council, which had significant influence. As protests escalated this week, Tokayev ousted Nazarbayev and fired Kazakhstan’s cabinet, but vowed that the government would not fall.

Authorities have declared a state of emergency and imposed a night curfew. Almost all domestic and international flights in Kazakhstan were canceled and trains lost contact, officials said.

The CSTO said Russian paramilitary forces, which would soon join forces with other member states, were working with Kazakh law enforcement agencies to “protect key government and military sites” and “stabilize the situation.” Planned to help institutions.

Informal Summit of Commonwealth Leaders of Independent States
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) poses with Kazakh President Kassim-Jomart Tokayev at an informal summit on combating COVID-19 epidemic in St. Petersburg, Russia, on December 28, 2021.

Kremlin Press Office / Anadolu Agency / Getty

Kazakhstan is a close strategic ally of Russia, which is very sensitive to any unrest in the former Soviet republic. The deteriorating situation in Kazakhstan presents a new challenge for President Vladimir Putin, who has long sought to make his country a major power in the region.

“After Kazakhstan, there is another test. BelarusDmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote A tweet. “There are a lot of potential losses around, but it could be a great honor if Moscow succeeds.”

Protests in Kazakhstan
Smoke billows from the City Hall building during a protest in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on January 5, 2022.

Jan Blagoff / AP

The violence in Kazakhstan comes amid growing tensions along Russia’s western borders, as Moscow pressures the West to sign legally binding guarantees that NATO will refrain from any expansion to the east. Most importantly, Putin has demanded that the United States and its European allies reject Ukraine’s application for membership in the Transatlantic Security Alliance.

Russia has increased the number by thousands. Soldiers near the Ukrainian borderUS officials have warned that Putin’s forces are preparing to attack. Putin, on the other hand, accuses NATO of stoking tensions by strengthening its military presence near Russia’s West Bank. It has routinely accused the United States and its European allies of inciting and supporting uprisings around the world, and especially in the former Soviet republic, which Moscow considers its backyard.

Biden warns that if Russia attacks Ur …


Russia’s foreign ministry said on Thursday that “we see the recent developments in a friendly country as an attempt to undermine the security and integrity of the state by force, using trained and organized armed formations.” Which are influenced from the outside. ” The Kazakh military statement did not provide further details on the “external” motive for the protests.

Russian and US diplomats are due to meet in Geneva next week to ease tensions, following two calls between Putin and President Joe Biden.

Alexander Bonov, a Carnegie Center analyst, tweeted: “The Kremlin needs to divert attention from the two and manage strategic instability on two fronts.” “It seems that Ukraine and NATO are no longer the sole focus of future Russia-US talks, there is a new hot button issue for negotiations with Biden.

Bonov said the new crisis would “make it difficult for Putin to make a concerted effort on his important diplomatic front”, which has been at a standstill in Ukraine.