Jan 6, 2022 - World

Russia-led alliance sends forces to Kazakhstan as unrest intensifies

A burnt bus is seen by the Almaty mayors office. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images
A burnt bus is seen by the Almaty mayor's office. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

A Russia-led military alliance said Thursday it was sending forces to Kazakhstan to help quell the deadly unrest rocking the Central Asian country.

The big picture: Dozens of people, including protesters and police officers, have been killed in more than four days of unrest over what started as outrage over fuel price hikes and has since escalated into some of the worst street violence in Kazakhstan since the former Soviet country's independence in 1991, AP reports.

  • The Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization is sending peacekeeping forces to the country at the request of Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, according to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, the current chair of the alliance.
  • It's unclear how many troops the alliance is sending and how long they will stay in the country.

Between the lines: "Russia is notorious for sending in troops under the guise of peacekeeping missions that go on to establish a permanent presence in the host countries," the New York Times notes.

  • Due to an internet blackout and tight government controls, it's difficult to verify the extent of the violence.
Protesters take part in a rally over a hike in energy prices in Almaty on Jan. 5, 2022.
Protesters rally in Almaty on Jan. 5. Photo: Abduaziz Madyarov/AFP via Getty Images

Driving the news: The protests started peacefully in the town of Zhanaozen on Sunday after the government nearly doubled the price of liquefied petroleum gas, which is widely used to fuel vehicles in the country, per the Times.

  • By Tuesday, when the government announced it would rescind the price hike, the protests in the resource-rich country had spread and broadened into anger over inequality, government representation, corruption and other issues.
  • On Wednesday, Tokayev's government had announced its resignation, per AP. The unrest, however, continued, with security forces firing water cannons, tear gas and concussion grenades on protesters, some of whom stormed government and public buildings, businesses and an airport. The mayor's office and other buildings in the major city of Almaty were set ablaze, per Reuters.
  • Tokayev, who has vowed a harsh crackdown on the unrest and called protesters "a band of international terrorists," declared a two-week, nationwide state of emergency that includes a curfew and other restrictions, the Times reports.
 Security forces in Almaty.
Security forces in Almaty. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

What they're saying: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a call with Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi on Thursday "reiterated the United States’ full support for Kazakhstan’s constitutional institutions and media freedom and advocated for a peaceful, rights-respecting resolution to the crisis," according to spokesperson Ned Price.

  • "The Secretary also raised the priority of promoting stability in Europe, including support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in response to Russian aggression," Price added.
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