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Violence Continues in Kazakhstan as Russia Sends First Contingent of CSTO Troops

Jan. 6, 2022 (EIRNS)—At the request of Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the first Russian contingent of CSTO troops arrived in Kazakhstan today to help quell the violence which has erupted suddenly in several major Kazakh cities, including Almaty, its commercial capital. The events began with boisterous but peaceful demonstrations on Jan. 2 in the western oil town of Zhanaozen, then quickly spread to other towns in the region. The immediate cause of the unrest was the sudden doubling of the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which most Kazakhs use as a cheaper fuel for the automobiles. The sudden price jump, in turn, was caused by a shift to electronic trading in LPG, according to an article for Eurasianet by Joanna Lillis. Eurasianet describes itself as “a tax-exempt [501(c)3] organization based at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute, one of the leading centers in North America of scholarship on Eurasia. We are funded by Google, the Open Society Foundations, the U.K.'s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, the National Endowment for Democracy....” Lillis is “Central Asia correspondent for The Economist based in Almaty and author of Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan.” She also covers the region for the Guardian and Independent newspapers, and Foreign Policy and Politico magazines.

By Jan. 4, there were thousands of people in the streets in many cities, and as protests turned into calls for regime change, particularly targeting Kazakhstan’s first post-Soviet leader Nursultan Nazarbayev who retired as President in 2019.  Protesters were initially kept under control by police forces and national guard. By early on Jan. 5th, however, new individuals were involved who started with looting and on setting cars on fire, not unlike the scenario in Ukraine in 2014, which allowed the State Department to usher in its pro-Nazi regime. Once the violence had begun, the main buildings, including the city hall in Almaty and the party headquarters of Nazarbayev’s Nur Otan Party were set on fire. “Demonstrators” occupied the Almaty airport, perhaps to prevent the arrival of more law enforcement forces.

Speaking to TASS on Jan. 6, Almaty police spokesman Saltanqat Azirbek said, “Last night, extremist forces tried to attack the administrative buildings and police departments in Almaty and its subordinate districts. Dozens of attackers have been killed and their identities are being determined.” The Almaty Commander’s Office stated that 120 vehicles, including 33 ambulances and fire trucks, were burnt on Jan. 5, and 120 commercial facilities, 180 restaurants, and approximately 100 offices destroyed. According to the Kazakhstan Ministry of Health, more than 1,000 people were injured in large-scale riots throughout the country, with 400 needing hospitalization, 62 in ICU. In addition, 352 law enforcement officers were injured, and 18 were killed; 2 officers were found beheaded.

A statement from the Almaty Commander’s Offices responsible for the anti-terrorism operation reported, “The bandits in Almaty are highly organized, which proves that they have been formally trained abroad. Their attack on Kazakhstan is an act of aggression and an attempt to undermine the integrity of the country.” President Tokayev indicated that there were foreign fighters involved in the rioting.

Commenting on the situation to TASS on Jan. 5, Mikhail Pogrebinsky, director of the Kiev Center for Political Research and Conflict Study, said: “Hardly anyone will dispute the fact that this erupted so timely, amidst the escalation between Russia and the West.” The developments in Kazakhstan “are advantageous for Americans at least for three reasons,” he pointed out. First, it distracts “Moscow’s attention from Donbas towards a partner of the CSTO,” he said.  Furthermore, the turmoil in Kazakhstan may “presumably exacerbate the relations between Moscow and Beijing: They hardly have equal interests in Nur-Sultan,” Pogrebinsky said. The Ukrainian expert also did not rule out that the riots in Kazakhstan were aimed at provoking Russia. “Thirdly, the aim is, if it succeeds, to provoke Moscow to participate in suppressing protests, with quite predictable consequences for Moscow for years to come,” he wrote.

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