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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Russia and its allies are preparing to intervene as unrest sweeps across Kazakhstan

Earlier on Wednesday, a Russian-led military alliance said that it will deploy peacekeeping soldiers to Kazakhstan at the request of the country’s president, in order to assist in the suppression of a burgeoning protest movement there.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who serves as the alliance’s current head, said in a statement that the forces would be stationed in the country only “for a short time period” until order could be restored.

He didn’t say how many troops would be deployed or how long they would be expected to remain on the ground. Russia is well-known for bringing in soldiers under the pretence of peacekeeping operations, only to establish a permanent presence in the nations where the troops are stationed when the mission is over.

The invitation was given earlier in the evening by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the president of the Republic of Kazakhstan. “A gang of worldwide terrorists,” he described the marchers as. He said that he was turning to Russia’s equivalent of NATO, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, to “assist Kazakhstan in overcoming this terrorist danger.”

Unrest erupted in western Kazakhstan on Sunday in response to an increase in the price of petroleum products. Four days later, with thousands of anti-government protesters storming government buildings, television stations, the airport, and a slew of businesses, the uprising has evolved into a full-throated attack on an entrenched Kazakh elite widely regarded as autocratic and corrupt, according to international observers.

Authorities shot and killed scores of individuals on Thursday as they attempted to attack government buildings, police headquarters and district police offices, a police spokesperson said. This is the first time that demonstrators have been murdered in such numbers since the rallies began. Following previous claims in the local news media that police had opened fire on protestors in the oil city of Atyrau, at least one person was killed, the government issued the statement.

As the audience started to depart from the building that afternoon, smoke billowed from the structure. A fire was also claimed to have engulfed the regional chapter of the ruling Nur Otan party, as well as the previous presidential mansion, according to local news agencies.

New skirmishes were reported between protestors and police, who fired stun grenades and tear gas to disperse the crowds, according to news reports on the ground. Prior to marching on the president’s mansion, protesters set fire to the prosecutor’s office in Almaty, which was later destroyed.

Initially calm, the demonstrations started on Sunday in the oil town of Zhanaozen when the government increased the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which is used to power cars in Kazakhstan, by more than twofold to over 100 tenge (22 cents) per litre. After weeks of demonstrations, including requests for expanded political representation and enhanced social benefits, the administration declared on Tuesday that it would revoke the price hike. The protests had extended throughout the nation by that time.

For Mr. Putin, the timing is particularly inconvenient because he intends to use three meetings next week with Western delegations to renegotiate post-Cold War international security agreements on Ukraine and what Russia considers to be its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, among other things.

The uprising also seemed to signal a significant split with the rule of Kazakhstan’s previous president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who stood down as president in 2019 but continued to have a role in the country’s affairs.

Following a slew of pro-democracy uprisings in Ukraine in 2014, Russia engaged militarily, and the Kremlin provided its backing to Belarusian tyrant Aleksandr G. Lukashenko when he ruthlessly suppressed nonviolent protests against his dictatorial government in 2020. At the moment, the Kremlin has “peacekeeping” soldiers stationed in Transnistria and the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as aiding Russian rebels in Ukraine’s eastern regions. Parts of Georgia and Abkhazia are also under its control.

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