Kazakhstan - 2022 Uprising
Protests engulfed Kazakhstan since the very first days of 2022, starting on 2 January in the country's southwestern regions due to a surge in gas prices that followed the government's announcement of a new pricing policy. As the prices skyrocketed, people took to the streets of the regions of Aktau and Zhanaozen, with demonstrations later spreading across the entire nation.
Residents of the cities of Zhanaozen and Aktau in Mangistau Oblast, an oil-producing region in western Kazakhstan, protested against the two-fold increase in LPG prices. A newly formed government commission said it was ready to lower these prices, but the protests spread to other cities. So, in Alma-Ata on January 4 and 5, clashes with security forces occurred, the police used gas and stun grenades. Throughout Kazakhstan, the Internet was turned off, and the broadcasting of a number of TV channels was temporarily stopped.
Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry said 10 January 2022 that peaceful protests throughout the country “were hijacked by terrorist, extremist and criminal groups.... According to preliminary data, the attackers include individuals who have military combat zone experience in the ranks of radical Islamist groups. Currently, the law enforcement agencies and armed forces of Kazakhstan are confronting terrorists, not ‘peaceful protesters' as some foreign media misrepresent it”.
A "peacekeeping" force will be deployed for a ‘limited’ period of time to stabilize the situation in Kazakhstan, the chairman of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Nikol Pashinyan, announced 06 January 2022. “In response to the appeal by [President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev] and considering the threat to the national security and sovereignty of Kazakhstan, caused, among other things, by outside interference, the CSTO Collective Security Council decided to send the Collective Peacekeeping Forces to the Republic of Kazakhstan in accordance with Article 4 of the Collective Security Treaty,” Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan said.
In accordance with the decision of the CSTO Collective Security Council, adopted on January 6, 2022, the Collective Peacekeeping Forces of the Collective Security Treaty Organization were sent to the Republic of Kazakhstan for a limited time to stabilize and normalize the situation. This marked the first time in the alliance’s history that the CSTO collective peacekeeping forces had been deployed. The Russian-led forces were meant to guard critical facilities, airfields and key social infrastructure.
The total number of CSTO peacekeeping personnel is some 3,600 troops. They included units of the armed forces of the Russian Federation [about 3,000 troops], the Republic of Belarus [500 troops from the 103rd Airborne Brigade], Republic of Tajikistan [about 200 troops] the Republic of Armenia [70 troops], the and the Kyrgyz Republic [committment unclear]. The main element was the 45th separate special-purpose brigade of the Airborne Troops, along with the Airborne Division of the 98th and the 31st Paratroopers Brigade.
A contingent of 70 IL-76 and five AN-124 transport aircraft had been delivering military personnel and equipment to CSTO forces “around the clock,” the Russian Defense ministry said, "The main tasks of the Collective Peacekeeping Forces of the CSTO will be the protection of important state and military facilities, assistance to the forces of law and order of the Republic of Kazakhstan in stabilizing the situation and returning it to the legal field," the CSTO secretariat reported.
Tokayev appealed to Russia because he feared not all members of his security forces would remain loyal if the conflict escalated. In some smaller towns, police appeared to be sitting idly by, and in Aktobe, near the Russian border, police reportedly sided with protesters.
The country’s Health Ministry said 09 January 2022 that 164 people, including three children, were killed in the unrest. Kazakhstan's Interior Ministry reported 10 January 2022 that a total of 7,939 people had been detained across the country. Kazakh authorities said they detained nearly 1,700 people on 12 January 2022 in connection with the unrest, bringing the total to some 12,000.
The bodies of 225 people killed in unrest in Kazakhstan last week, including 19 members of the security forces, were delivered to morgues throughout the country, the prosecutor general’s office said on 15 January 2022. The figure included civilians and armed “bandits” killed by security forces, Serik Shalabayev, the head of criminal prosecution at the prosecutor’s office, told a briefing. Shalabayev said 50,000 people joined the riots throughout the former Soviet republic at their peak on Jan. 5 when crowds stormed and torched government buildings, cars, banks and shops in several major cities.
Although the situation in Kazakhstan was under control, the unrest would have more impacts: it destroyed the image of Kazakhstan as a stable country and proved to both Kazakhstan and regional countries that stability and security in the region was still fragile. Out of concern for security and political needs, countries in Central Asia may work toward closer relations with Russia.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on 13 January 2022 the pullout would be completed on 19 January. Putin praised the CSTO peacekeepers' work. "Everything worked like clockwork: fast, coherent and effective," Putin told Shoigu on state television. "I want to thank you, the general staff and everyone who led this operation, for this work and to express my hope that this practice of using our armed forces will be studied further."
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