Wednesday, November 30

Russian tanks complete mission in Kazakhstan | International

As night falls in Almaty, the financial capital of Kazakhstan, the sirens continue to remind that the night curfew is in force and after 23.00 there is hardly a soul left on the street. But, for the rest, life seems to be burying the embers of the violent protests that shook this city, the epicenter of the revolts that have put the state in check and shaken the geopolitical game of Central Asia.

The signs of normality are already evident. This Thursday, the scorched building of the Mayor’s Office, one of which took the worst part last week, has been covered with a mesh that hides the sooty scars; the great avenue that was the scene of heavy armed confrontations has been reopened to traffic. And, above all, the perhaps definitive symptom, the troops led by Russia that entered the country to help defuse the crisis, have already begun their withdrawal this Thursday.

The contingent of more than 2,000 soldiers from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military association for part of the post-Soviet space headed by Moscow, landed in the country last week after Kazakh President Kasim-Yomart Tokáyev, requested help to contain a protests that started peacefully at the beginning of the year, motivated by the rise in the prices of liquefied petroleum gas in this country rich in hydrocarbons, but have ended with dozens of deaths (there is no verifiable figure ) —And 10,000 detainees, according to official data from the Kazakh Government—, the vast majority of them in Almaty.

The entry of foreign troops raised the Kazakh uprisings to a different geopolitical dimension, suddenly adding to the tension already triggered between Washington, Brussels and Moscow due to the accumulation of Russian troops at Ukraine’s doorstep. The Secretary of State of the United States, Antony Blinken, went so far as to affirm that Kazakhstan could find it difficult to get rid of the presence of Russian troops once inside the country. But Moscow has assured this Thursday that the CSTO contingent will have completed its march on January 19, even earlier than expected.

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“Everything has worked like clockwork: fast, consistent and efficient,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, according to statements collected by Reuters. “We must go home. We have fulfilled our task ”. The president’s statements suggest a halo of satisfaction over the lightning deployment, at a critical time in which, in turn, with the other hand, the pawns of Ukraine were negotiating with the West. “I want […] express my hope that this practice of using our armed forces will be studied in the future ”, added the Russian president.

For Dosym Satpayev, political analyst and director of Kazakh Risk Assessment Group, Putin is “one of the big winners” after the peace of the tanks that has prevailed in the Kazakh streets, as this elegant political scientist tells inside a bright cafe in Almaty. Another sign of normality in the city: people already meet quietly to chat in the cafes, most of them open. Satpayev explains that if, in recent years, Kazakhstan had cultivated a “multi-vector” foreign relations policy, dealing with all kinds of countries, from China to the United States, the rapprochement with Moscow will be evident in the coming months. “Now [el país] has debts with Mr. Putin ”; which means that its internal and international agenda will set it taking into account the new circumstances. Somehow, the crisis and its outcome have placed Kazakhstan in the league of countries like Belarus, whose turn towards Moscow has been pronounced after the democratic revolts of the summer of 2020, harshly repressed by Aleksandr Lukashenko’s regime, and its growing isolation before the international community.

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With the military in retreat and the return of that strange normality in which broken glass is swept away and urban military patrols still coexist, Kazakhstan has the complex task of unraveling what happened in the coming weeks: the exact number of deaths, for For example, or the veracity of statements by President Tokáyev, who justified the entry of foreign troops by claiming that the country was facing “bandits and terrorists” who came in part from abroad with the intention of subverting order. He encrypted these alleged assailants at about 20,000, another data that could not be independently confirmed.

“This is not correct information,” protests analyst Satpayev again. According to him, most of those who turned the peaceful riots into violent disorders are young people, between 17 and 25 years old, Kazakhs who have come from the outskirts of the city and from other regions of the country; many, unemployed or with precarious jobs, low wages and humble living conditions; people willing to climb the slopes of the steep city from the periphery, to reach the elevated areas of Almaty, where you breathe cleaner air and live the wealthy class, to confront the forces of order, vandalize buildings and loot numerous shops.

Satpayev portrayed this youth in 2014, in a book entitled ‘Molotov cocktail. Anatomy of the Kazakh youth ‘, in which he spoke of the explosive social situation and the enormous inequality that has arisen since the fall of the USSR and the independence of Kazakhstan. “When our officials speak of terrorists, they do not understand that there is an aggressive and marginal youth.” There are many people in his country who continue to relieve themselves in holes in the ground, he adds. And that he could never afford a cup of coffee like the one he enjoys this Thursday at mid-morning of a new normal.

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