Tuesday, March 21

Russian paratroopers arrive in Kazakhstan as riots continue | Kazakhstan

The Russian paratroopers arrived in Kazakhstan as part of a “peacekeeping” mission by a Moscow-led military alliance to help the president regain control of the country, according to Russian news agencies.

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called for the intervention of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), an alliance made up of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, late on Wednesday and it was quickly approved. .

It occurs as violent clashes continue between protesters and the police and army in Kazakhstan. There is little reliable information on the number of victims, but local news agencies quoted a police spokesman in Almaty, the country’s largest city, as saying that dozens of people were killed during attacks on government buildings.

On Thursday morning, shots were fired as troops entered Almaty’s main square. Several armored personnel carriers and dozens of foot troops arrived Thursday morning, and shots were heard as they approached the crowd, Reuters witnesses said.

Protests in Kazakhstan: protesters storm government buildings - video
Protests in Kazakhstan: protesters storm government buildings – video

State television reported Thursday that the National Bank of Kazakhstan had suspended all financial institutions. Internet in the country is almost inactive, as well as the reception of mobile phones.

On Wednesday, there were reports of violent clashes and shootings in Almaty and other cities, as well as unverified videos suggesting casualties among the protesters.

On Wednesday night Tokayev asked the CSTO to help him regain control. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said the alliance would send forces to “stabilize” the central Asian country.

Troops in the main square of Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Troops in the main square of Almaty, Kazakhstan. Photograph: Mariya Gordeyeva / Reuters

It is unclear how many troops the CSTO will send or how long they will remain in the country. Russian deputy Leonid Kalashnikov told Interfax that the troops would stay “as long as the president of Kazakhstan deems it necessary.” He said they would focus primarily on protecting the “infrastructure” in the country.

Tokayev had appealed to the bloc for help, denouncing the actions of “terrorists” and claiming that the country had been the victim of “attacks” by gangs formed abroad after the increase in the price of fuel sparked widespread protests.

On Wednesday, protesters seized government buildings and reportedly stormed the airport in Almaty, the country’s commercial capital and largest city.

“Almaty was attacked, destroyed, vandalized, Almaty residents became victims of terrorist attacks, bandits, therefore it is our duty … to take all possible actions to protect our state,” Tokayev said, in his second televised speech on a topic. hours.

The events in Kazakhstan come at a time when all eyes were on a possible Russian intervention in Ukraine. Images of police dominated by protesters are likely to cause alarm in Moscow as another country neighboring Russia succumbs to political unrest. Kazakhstan is part of an economic union with Russia and the two countries share a long border.

The protests began in the west of the country at the weekend, after a sharp rise in fuel prices, but have spread rapidly and have taken Kazakhstan authorities and international observers by surprise.

The protests have escalated amid broader discontent with Tokayev, president since 2019, and Nazarbayev.

“Nazarbayev and his family have monopolized all sectors, from banking to highways and gas. These protests are for corruption, ”said Zauresh Shekenova, 55, who has been protesting in Zhanaozen since Sunday.

Security forces in Almaty.
Security forces in Almaty. Photograph: Valery Sharifulin / Tass

“It all started with the increase in gasoline prices but the real cause of the protests is the poor living conditions of the people, high prices, unemployment, corruption.”

Darkhan Sharipov, an activist with the Wake Up civil society movement, Kazakhstan, said: “The people are fed up with corruption and nepotism, and the authorities do not listen to the people … We want President Tokayev to carry out reforms real politics, or let him go and hold a fair election. “

The five former Soviet Central Asian republics have been largely without protests in their three decades of independence, with the exception of Kyrgyzstan, which has had several revolutions.

Kazakhstan has never held an election considered free and fair by international observers. While it is clear that there is widespread discontent, the cleaning of the political playing field over many years means that there are no high-profile opposition figures around whom a protest movement can rally, and the protests seem largely aimless. .


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