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Monday, February 6, 2023

Russia-led alliance begins troop withdrawal from Kazakhstan

MOSCOW — A Russian-led military alliance on Thursday began the process of withdrawing troops from Kazakhstan, Moscow said after a week-long deployment that helped stabilize the Central Asian nation amid a wave of political unrest that has left dozens dead and thousands injured.

The troops of the alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the NATO group, which includes Russia and five other former Soviet republics, began to transfer to local authorities strategic facilities that they were guarding and preparing to leave the country, Russian This is stated in the message of the Ministry of Defense.

At least one military transport aircraft with Russian troops on board has already taken off from the airport in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, according to video footage from the scene. Russian Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu said at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Thursday that the withdrawal should be completed by next Wednesday.

Russian and Kazakh officials said this week the troops would be withdrawn once the unrest was brought under control, amid fears by many in Kazakhstan that they would remain in the country indefinitely, anchoring it forever in the Kremlin’s sphere of influence.

Many in Kazakhstan had a “negative” attitude towards the presence of Russian troops in their country, and therefore “the decision was made to announce as soon as possible that their mission was completed,” political analyst Dimash Alzhanov said by phone. interview from Almaty.

By lending a helping hand during the crisis, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has achieved a geopolitical triumph, according to Mr. Alzhanov. But “such a service has its price and will not be forgotten,” the analyst noted. “What that price will be, we’ll find out later.”

Last week, Kazakhstan plunged into its worst political crisis in its three decades of independence after protests against rising fuel prices spread across the country and turned the most prosperous city of Almaty into the scene of armed street fighting.

While the protests in the country’s west have been largely peaceful, they have spiraled out of control in several major cities and most notably in Almaty, where police were either unwilling or unable to contain the violence that led to mass looting and burning cars and buildings. The airport in Almaty was overrun by the crowd and only reopened for flights on Thursday.

Kazakh authorities are sending conflicting messages about the origins of the violence. In a speech on Monday, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev claimed without evidence that his country had been taken over by a group of international terrorists. He also revealed that 20,000 “bandits” had attacked Almaty in a Twitter post that was later removed from his official account.

The general sense of confusion is exacerbated by the fact that the authorities have not yet released official figures on how many people died in the clashes, and many Kazakhs have not been able to find their relatives and friends. More than 9,800 people have been detained since the crisis, according to authorities.

Some analysts say they believe internal power struggles among the country’s elites fueled the violence, pointing to the removal of various government and security officials that followed the unrest.

On Thursday, the National Security Committee, Kazakhstan’s most powerful security agency, said it suspects Karim Massimov, its former chief who was fired during last week’s riots, of trying to stage a coup d’état. Mr. Massimov and two of his deputies have been arrested.

According to Mr. Alzhanov, Mr. Masimov was one of the most powerful allies of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Mr. Nazarbayev ruled Kazakhstan from 1990 until 2019, when Tokayev, his choice, came to power. Since then, Mr. Tokayev has made comments hinting that Mr. Nazarbayev is responsible for the nepotism and corruption that many analysts believe contributed to the unrest.

However, many in Kazakhstan doubt that Mr. Massimov could have orchestrated the riots on his own.

“Masimov, with two of his deputies, could never have staged a coup to remove Tokayev from power without Nazarbayev and his family,” Baltash Tursumbayev, a former Kazakh deputy prime minister, told Dozhd, an independent Russian TV channel.

Mr. Nazarbayev has not been seen in public since the crisis began, fueling rumors about his whereabouts and the fate of his family, who are among the richest people in Kazakhstan. Last week, he was fired from his post as chairman of the government’s Security Council.

On Monday, speaking to senior government officials and members of parliament, Mr. Tokayev vowed to introduce reforms in the country to address widespread income inequality and eradicate corrupt practices that analysts say have enriched the country’s elite and which experts say have contributed to unrest.

However, while he tried to signal a break with past ways of doing things, he also continued to use some of the repressive tactics honed by his predecessor.

Several journalists were detained in Kazakhstan during and after the protests. At least three, including Nurzhan Baimuldin, who criticized the decision to send Russian troops to Kazakhstan, were sentenced to administrative arrest.

While Internet access has largely been restored, Orda.kz, one of the main independent news sites, has been blocked.

“The man at the top of the system has changed,” political analyst Mr. Alzhanov said, referring to Mr. Nazarbayev’s greatly diminished influence. “But the structure and framework of the authoritarian model remained intact.”

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Deskhttps://worldnationnews.com/
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