Twelve Russian military transport planes Il-76 and AN-124 landed on Friday, January 7, at the airport of Almaty, the economic capital of Kazakhstan, at the heart of the riots that have shaken the country for several days. Under the command of General Andrei Serdyukov, who led airborne operations in Syria, this contingent of nearly 3,000 soldiers is responsible for “Protect vital installations, aerodromes and key social infrastructures”. They “Do not participate in operational and combat operations carried out by local security forces and army units [kazakhe] to restore public order ”, said the Russian Ministry of Defense.
The speed with which Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev appealed to Moscow, just hours after the protests, sparked by the rise in fuel prices on 1is January, began to degenerate, surprised. The official referral to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance that has united since 2002, in addition to Russia and Kazakhstan, Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, served as a screen. The massive deployment of Russian troops is indeed out of step with the few dozen soldiers dispatched by other states. And the intervention of the CSTO is indeed a first when it comes to the internal affairs of one of its members.
To legitimize his request, Mr. Tokayev blamed the unrest, as early as Wednesday, January 5, on “International terrorist groups”, after having cited a few moments previously the figure of “20,000 armed criminals” in the city of Almaty alone, which seems like a lot for an operation “Terrorist”. At the risk of appearing as the one who allowed the return of Russian soldiers to Kazakh territory, thirty years after the independence of this former Soviet Republic, did the Head of State especially doubt the loyalty of his security device? Despite the Internet shutdown, which came as the movement spread to several regions, increasingly demanding regime change, videos have appeared sometimes showing scenes of fraternization between security forces and demonstrators. . Of these, more than 3,800 have already been arrested.
A partner concerned about its sovereignty
In power since 2019, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, 68, is not a conciliator, as proved by his martial declarations, still giving instructions to the police and soldiers on Friday, “To shoot to kill”, and continue operations “Until total destruction [des manifestants] ». Austere – he once confided that he did not celebrate his birthdays or those of his children -, little inclined to let his emotions surface on his face, the leader of the largest country in Central Asia appears above all as the heir. of a political system locked for more than thirty years by Nursultan Nazarbayev. Now 81 years old, weakened by illness, the latter has reigned supreme since 1990 by being re-elected five times as head of state, even if it means modifying the Constitution.
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Moscow in a strong position in Kazakhstan