Kazakh President says order is restored after suppressing protests

Kazakhstan’s president on Monday said “constitutional order” had been restored in the country and his government was taking control following the support of the Russian-led army to quell mass protests. broke out against his regime last week.

Security forces have re-established government grip across the country since last weekend, conducting what they call a “counter-terrorist operation” aimed at ending the unrest. Last week, the military used live fire in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, to clear streets amid anti-government protests in which authorities said more than 160 people were killed.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said the large-scale phase of “counterterrorism operations” would soon end as he spoke at a virtual summit between leaders of the Russian-led military alliance, The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), took place last. week sent 2,300 troops to Kazakhstan to help Britain quell the protests.

Tokayev asked the coalition to send troops when his government was in turmoil. However, he said the foreign military’s mission in Kazakhstan would end at the same time as “counterterrorism operations”.

“In the near future, the large-scale counter-terrorism operation will come to an end and with it will fulfill the successful and effective mission of the CSTO team,” he told leaders on the call including General Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Protests that began in Kazakhstan last week due to a sudden increase in fuel prices but quickly escalated into a major challenge for the Kazakh regime as government buildings were hit by storms, including in Almaty, where the mayor’s office was set on fire and the airport was destroyed.

Tokayev declared the unrest a “coup plot” carried out “under the guise of spontaneous demonstrations” and involved well-trained fighters. Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry said nearly 8,000 people were arrested during the protests.

Units from Russia’s parachute brigades have been deployed to Kazakhstan along with several hundred other members of the alliance, including former Soviet states including Belarus, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, but led by Moscow. dominate.

Western countries expressed concern that Russia’s intervention could erode Kazakhstan’s independence and that Russian troops might not leave once the unrest ends.

Putin at the virtual summit rejected that idea, saying that the Russian-led troops would stay in the country for a “limited period” determined by the president of Kazakhstan and that “without question.” expect” they will leave after completing the mission.

He said the situation in Kazakhstan is “gradually normalizing” and that in the near future, all of the country will be under control and stable. “

Putin supports Tokayev’s version that external and internal forces have tried to take advantage of the protests to carry out a violent coup, while claiming that the militants are trained in terrorist camps. Fathers abroad participated.

“We understand, of course, that the threat to the state of Kazakhstan is not caused by spontaneous protests over fuel prices, but by sabotaging internal and external forces using the situation,” Putin said. said, adding that the protesters and those “who took up arms” were “completely different people.”

Putin claimed the unrest was caused by “foreign interference” and that the Russia-led coalition helped stave off the “Color Revolution” in Kazakhstan, a generic phrase the Kremlin uses to refer to the protests. popular uprising in the countries of the former Soviet Union that they claim to be. instigated by Western countries.

Putin has alleged that Ukraine’s 2014 revolution that ousted the Russian-backed president was a Western-backed coup. In 2020, he came to the aid of the authoritarian ruler of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, amid a series of peaceful protests against his rule. Lukashenko this week also sent troops to Kazakhstan.

“Of course, we understand that the event in Kazakhstan is not the first and not the last attempt at outside interference in our countries,” Putin said.

The unrest in Kazakhstan last week still lurks with uncertainty and speculation is growing that an internal power struggle between rival sections of the elite may well have been taking place. chaos of protests.

Speculation increased after Tokayev arrested the former head of Kazakhstan’s security service, Karim Masimov, on suspicion of treason. Masimov is a close ally of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the longtime strongman who has dominated the country since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Nazarbayev, 81, has managed to manage his succession by handing over the presidency to Tokayev in 2019 but retains considerable power as chairman of the national security council and holds the honorary title. Attend “National Leadership”. The arrested security service chief, Masimov, was Nazarbayev’s longtime lieutenant and was widely seen as his appointee to check on Tokayev after the transition.

Theories of an internal conflict have been fueled by the mysterious absence of Nazarbayev, who has not been seen in public since the protests began, despite his press secretary insisting determined he was in the country and contacted Tokayev. To date, there has been little evidence to support the theories, although some Almaty protesters also said their peaceful protests were overtaken by organized armed gangs and was the leader of attacks on government buildings.

Almaty was said to have calmed down again on Monday, four days after security services re-entered the streets, opening fire on protesters. The city is under heavy military control, with the army guarding the main building and a curfew in place. There have been signs of some effort to return to normalcy, with TV channels showing crews cleaning up some burned-out cars and repairing ransacked buildings during the unrest. An ABC News reporter in Almaty said it’s been difficult to buy food in recent days, with most shops closed and only bread delivered.

https://abcnews.go.com/International/kazakhstans-president-order-restored-crackdown-protests/story?id=82175066 Kazakh President says order is restored after suppressing protests

Emma Bowman

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