Troops of Russia-led bloc begin pullout from Kazakhstan

Published January 14, 2022
ALMATY: Russian peacekeepers of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation boarding a military plane at an airport outside Kazakhstan’s capital on Thursday.—AP
ALMATY: Russian peacekeepers of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation boarding a military plane at an airport outside Kazakhstan’s capital on Thursday.—AP

ALMATY: Russian troops were loading onto planes taking off from Kazakhstan on Thursday after President Vladimir Putin said their mission to quell protests that turned into unprecedented unrest in the Central Asian country had ended.

The decision to dispatch troops was a first for the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), an alliance of ex-Soviet states often touted by Russia as a Nato equivalent, following an urgent plea from Kazakhstan’s leadership.

At a ceremony marking the end of the mission, soldiers lined up as anthems from each of the six member countries were played before official speeches.

“The peacekeeping operation is over,” said Russian General Andrei Serdyukov, commander of the contingent that included troops from Belarus, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin the pullout would be completed by Wednesday next week, several days ahead of a January 22 deadline set by the alliance to complete the withdrawal.

“We must come home. We’ve completed our mission,” Putin told Shoigu during their meeting.

The plea from Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, during the height of the unrest, for Moscow to intervene was a turning point of the protests.

The move sparked concerns that Moscow would leverage the mission to shore up influence in Kazakhstan and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier warned that “once Russians are in your house, it’s sometimes very difficult to get them to leave”.

During his first visit to Kazakhstan’s main city Almaty on Wednesday — where life has been gradually returning to normal — Tokayev praised the “psychological importance” of the CSTO mission.

The financial hub of 1.8 million people was devastated during clashes bet­ween security forces and government opponents that gave way to a spree of looting.

One strategic complex the troop contingent was guarding was Almaty airport, which was reportedly seized by government opponents last week.

The airport’s press service said that it was handling both domestic and international flights again on Thursday.

Last week’s violence erupted on the back of rallies over a rise in fuel prices and against a background of deteriorating living standards and endemic corruption.

Tokayev has framed the clashes as a coup attempt assisted by local and international terrorists and said that economic damage from the violence “could total $2-3 billion”.

Putin hinted that the violence was reminiscent of “colour revolutions” instigated with foreign help and at least 12,000 people have been detained, police said, with at least three journalists reportedly under arrest.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2022

Opinion

Editorial

UNGA speech
25 Sep, 2022

UNGA speech

CRISES test a nation’s resilience but also provide opportunities to rise and move forward. Prime Minister Shehbaz...
Dar’s return
Updated 25 Sep, 2022

Dar’s return

Dar will now be expected by his party to conjure up fiscal space for the govt to start spending ahead of the next elections.
Iran hijab protests
25 Sep, 2022

Iran hijab protests

FOR over a week now, Iran has been witnessing considerable tumult after a young woman died earlier this month in the...
Post-flood economy
Updated 24 Sep, 2022

Post-flood economy

WITH a third of the country — especially Sindh and Balochistan — under water, over 33m people displaced, and...
Panadol shortage
24 Sep, 2022

Panadol shortage

FROM headaches to fever to bodily pain — paracetamol is used ubiquitously in Pakistan as the go-to remedy for most...
Star-struck cops
24 Sep, 2022

Star-struck cops

IN this age of selfies and social media, it is easy to get carried away in the presence of famous people, even if ...