Personnel belonging to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have arrived in Kazakhstan, purportedly to help the government quell protests surrounding an increase in gas prices. As we had reported previously, the protests first began on January 2 in Zhanaozen in the Mangystau region over a near doubling of Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) prices in the country over the past year, and then spread to Almaty the largest city and an important commercial center.

However, what was initially a peaceful protest by citizens, has now turned violent with instances of arson being reported from Almaty. Kazakhstan had declared a state of emergency for two weeks. Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev then sought the CSTO’s help. The CSTO is a coalition of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. Kazakhstan, is the ninth largest country in the world and shares international borders with both Russia and China.

In an address delivered on Friday, January 7, President Tokayev said, “As you know, based on the main provisions of the CSTO charter documents, Kazakhstan appealed to the heads of the participating states with a request to introduce a joint peacekeeping contingent to assist in restoring constitutional order. This contingent has arrived in our country for a short period of time to perform supporting functions.”

In his speech, President Tokayev thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin saying, “He very quickly and, most importantly, in a warm and friendly manner responded to my appeal.”

President Tokayev also shed light on efforts of local authorities in restoring law and order. “The police, the national guard and the army are carrying out large-scale and well-coordinated efforts to restore law and order in accordance with the Constitution. Yesterday, the situation in the cities of Almaty, Aktobe, and Almaty region was stabilized,” informed Tokayev who has maintained that violence and disruption were caused by terrorists and not ordinary citizens.

“We have had to deal with armed and trained bandits, both local and foreign,” said Tokayev adding that the “terrorists continue to cause damage to public and private property, and use weapons against citizens.” He shot down the possibility of holding talks asking, “What kind of negotiations can take place with criminals and murderers?”

Meanwhile, The Guardian reported that incidents of violent clashes and shooting took place in Almaty and other cities on Wednesday, and on Thursday, Almaty city authorities said that at least 12 police and security forces personnel were killed and over 300 injured during protests. The publication also reported that the national bank had suspended all financial institutions, and internet and mobile phone services were also badly affected and barely functional.

Earlier this week, Alikhan Smailov was named acting Prime Minister, and government officials will continue to serve until a new cabinet is formed.

*Image courtesy: File picture by The Presidential Press and Information Office, Kremlin via Wikimedia Commons.