Jan 11, 2022 - World

Kazakhstan president says Russia will start withdrawing troops

A Russian peacekeeper in Almaty. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty

Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said Tuesday that troops from the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) would begin a phased withdrawal within two days, with a full exit taking no longer than 10 days.

Why it matters: Tokayev turned to Russia last week when mass protests exploded into violence in what he now claims was a coup attempt against him. Now that order seems to largely be restored, he's placing loyalists in key positions and asking the foreign "peacekeepers" to withdraw.

  • By inviting Russia in, Tokayev underscored Moscow's position as security guarantor for regimes in the region.
  • He may also have compromised his country’s sovereignty, though Vladimir Putin has said Russian troops will leave when Tokayev deems them no longer necessary.

Driving the news: Tokayev, who fired the Cabinet last Wednesday and has continued to clean house since, appointed former deputy prime minister Alikhan Smailov as prime minister on Tuesday.

  • Powerful intelligence chief Karim Masimov was arrested Saturday on suspicion of treason and replaced by Yermek Sagimbayev, who had been responsible for Tokayev's security as head of the State Security Service.
  • Most mysterious is the status of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the longtime former dictator who handed the presidency to Tokayev in 2019. He has vanished from view after being ousted as head of the security council last week. His spokesman denies reports that he fled the country.
  • Almaty remains under an 11pm-7am curfew, but residents have begun to return to work, per the WSJ. The government says around 160 people were killed during the unrest, and nearly 10,000 arrested.

What's next: Tokayev has promised an investigation into the "attempted coup" and how "agents of terrorism" had been able to obtain weapons and move against him without being exposed by the security services.

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