Russia’s Defense Ministry said that Russian soldiers deployed there after violent demonstrations in Kazakhstan have returned. According to the ministry, the soldiers were sent as peacekeepers under the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The CSTO, a Russian-led organization of six countries that were part of the former Soviet Union, decided to send more than 2,000 troops on January 5 at the request of Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
Demonstrations started on January 2 against the huge increase in fuel prices in Kazakhstan. Soon they spread all over the country and within a few days they turned into a violent movement. Protesters entered government buildings and set them on fire and clashes with security forces resulted in the death of many. The Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday that all its aircraft carrying soldiers have returned. However, it is not yet clear whether soldiers from other CSTO countries have returned.
The situation reached bloodshed due to protests
Significantly, large-scale protests in Kazakhstan over the New Year’s weekend began peacefully, with those involved condemning the excessive increase in fuel prices. These demonstrations spread rapidly from the western part of the Central Asian nation to more populated areas, and sparks of protests eventually reached the country’s largest city, Almaty. Within a week, events changed rapidly. Groups of armed men appeared in Almaty, some of whom were seen in cars without number plates or with their faces covered. Those who protest peacefully say that these people started urging them to storm government buildings, promising to give them weapons.
Clashes soon broke out with the police and by the night of January 5, there was chaos in Almaty. City Hall was burning and cars, buses and shops were looted. Along with this, an attempt was made to raid the President’s residence. Gunshots were heard in the streets, the internet was shut down, and even the airport was briefly occupied. President Kasim-Jomart Tokayev has said that “terrorists” who have received foreign training and support are responsible for the unrest. But nearly two weeks after the events that resulted in a high number of deaths and nearly 16,000 arrests, the government has presented no evidence to support its allegation of outside involvement.