Overnight developments in Kazakhstan’s uprising CSTO peacekeepers have been deployed, and an ‘antiterrorist operation’ is underway against protesters and rioters
The Collective Security Treaty Organization has deployed troops to Kazakhstan, the organization confirmed officially to the news agency Interfax. The contingent of peacekeepers includes units from Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. The decision to send soldiers was reached based on “the threat to the Republic of Kazakhstan’s national security and sovereignty caused, among other things, by outside interference,” Armenian Prime Minister and acting CSTO Collective Security Council Chairman Nikol Pashinyan explained in an announcement on Wednesday.
CSTO forces will participate in the protection of military infrastructure and other facilities from “the rampage by various gangs.” This includes guarding the Baikonur Cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan (the spaceport, which is leased to Moscow, is where all crewed Russian spaceflights are launched to this day). According to Leonid Kalashnikov, who chairs the State Duma’s committee on affairs related to the Commonwealth of Independent States, local Kazakhstani law enforcement will manage the “gangs” themselves.
Late on Wednesday, January 5, the news outlet Baza reported that the Russian military put an airfield outside Orenburg on alert in preparation to send a special flight to Kazakhstan. The outlet also said Russia is reportedly planning to send its 11th guards engineering brigade unit, currently based in Kamensk-Shakhtinsky. CSTO spokespeople later confirmed that Russia used military transport aircraft to deploy ground and airborne units to Kazakhstan.
At the time of this writing, the Russian government had not yet commented officially on its participation in the CSTO peacekeeping mission in Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, has confirmed its readiness to provide support to Kazakhstan within the framework of the CSTO alliance.
Kazakhstani President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev issued several emergency orders to his government cabinet. In particular, he instructed the offices of the Attorney General, the Interior Ministry, and the National Security Committee to form a special group both to investigate the causes of the recent protests and riots and to identify and prosecute those deemed responsible for criminal activity. The president also ordered Kazakhstan’s Armed Forces and National Guard to conduct measures to improve combat readiness and “maintain military morale.”
An “anti-terrorist operation” is underway in Almaty, the epicenter of Kazakhstan’s protests and rioting. Late on January 5, troops drove protesters from the city’s international airport. Officials in Almaty said the authorities would wait until daybreak for the active phase of the operation to quell the city’s unrest, but eyewitnesses reported gunfire and clashes between crowds and riot police well before dawn. On the morning of January 6, the news agencies TASS and Sputnik Kazakhstan reported skirmishes between hundreds of soldiers and armed protesters in Revolution Square, outside the mayor’s office building. Roughly 50 heavy military trucks, including armored personnel carriers, formed a perimeter surrounding the square.
Without offering exact numbers, police in Almaty said on Thursday morning that dozens of protesters were killed overnight while trying to storm the city’s administration building and police headquarters. Police also confirmed reports that one of the city’s gun shops had been looted.
On Wednesday evening, Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry reported that eight police officers were killed and another 317 were injured in clashes with protesters.
Across Kazakhstan, more than 1,000 people have been injured in protests, the state television channel Khabar-24 reported on Thursday, citing data from the nation’s Health Ministry, which says 400 people have been hospitalized, including 62 patients now in ICUs.
For the third consecutive day, Internet access across Kazakhstan has faltered. National telecoms disabled broadband Internet access completely on January 5. The next morning, Khabar-24 reported new restrictions on Internet access. State officials say the limits are designed to ensure national security. There are also reports of disruptions to telephone communications in Nur-Sultan and Almaty.
All banks across the country have suspended operations due to the ongoing “counterterrorist operation,” Internet outages, and to protect financial institutions’ employees and clients, spokespeople for Kazakhstan’s National Bank announced on Thursday. Eyewitnesses previously reported runs on the nation’s banks with long lines forming outside individual branches. Due to Internet outages, non-cash payments have been largely impossible in Kazakhstan.