New Delhi, Jan 7: Launching a massive operation to “repulse terrorists” who are “rampaging at present in Almaty and in other cities,” Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev today vowed to take immediate measures to protect the diplomatic missions, “as well as subjects of foreign investment and business of foreign companies” in the resource-rich Central Asian nation.
A two-week state of emergency was declared in the western Mangistau region and the city of Almaty on Wednesday after violent protests triggered initially by a fuel price hike spread all over the country and led to the sacking of the ruling government.
Several videos of thousands of protestors creating ruckus on the streets and venting their anger at 81-year-old Nursultan Nazarbayev, who ruled the country for decades till 2019 and still wielded considerable power, have also gone viral on social media.
Chairing a meeting of his country’s Security Council early Thursday, Tokayev said that foreign terrorists and criminal elements are trying to destabilise the situation in the country. He said that these international terrorist gangs have undergone serious training abroad and their attack on Kazakhstan should be viewed as an act of aggression.
“They have captured infrastructure buildings, and most importantly, the premises where small arms are located. They are fighting with the cadets of the schools. Currently, there is a battle near Almaty with the airborne units of the Ministry of Defence,” the Head of the State was quoted as saying by Akorda, the official website of the President of Kazakhstan.
The terrorists, Tokayev mentioned, had seized large infrastructure facilities, including “about five aircraft, including foreign ones” at the Almaty airport which has been “attacked, destroyed, vandalized”.
The Kazakh President said that he hoped that the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) members would help his country overcome this “external” terrorist threat.
“My constitutional duty is that I have to take care of the well-being, security and tranquillity of our citizens. Therefore, I consider an appeal to the CSTO partners absolutely appropriate and timely. I believe that the people of Kazakhstan will support this decision,” said Tokayev.
Besides Russia, other CSTO members include Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Announcing help immediately, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who had recently taken over the CSTO presidency from Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon, said that the CSTO peacekeeping forces will be dispatched to Kazakhstan “for a limited period of time” with the aim of stabilising and normalising the situation in this country.
The decision was made in accordance with Article 4 of the Collective Security Treaty of May 15, 1992, which provides that in the event of an aggression (armed attack threatening security, stability, territorial integrity and sovereignty) against any of the participating States, all other members, at its request, will immediately provide it with the necessary support and assistance, including military.
The CSTO members had put into action the same process of joined consultations to eliminate the ‘external threat’ after the return of Taliban in Afghanistan last August which had put bordering Tajikistan at extreme ease.
However, this would be for the first time in the 30-year history of the organisation that military forces will be deployed to support a member country.
Backing Tokayev, Moscow today said that it is closely following the events in the “brotherly” neighbouring country and will continue close consultations with the Kazakh side and other CSTO allies to analyse and develop, if necessary, further effective steps, “primarily to facilitate” the conduct of the counter-terrorist operation.
“We regard the recent events in a friendly country as an attempt, inspired from the outside, to undermine the security and integrity of the state by force, using trained and organised armed formations,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday.
The Vladimir Putin government also reaffirmed its adherence to allied commitments within the framework of the CSTO and supported the adoption of urgent measures in connection with the rapid degradation of the internal political situation and the growth of violence in Kazakhstan.
Meanwhile, security has als been tightened at Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome located in Kazakhstan.
“The operational headquarters, created under the Baikonur administration, fully controls the situation in the city. Armed security for key facilities of the cosmodrome has been strengthened,” wrote Dmitry Rogozin, Director General of Russian space agency Roscosmos in a social media post.
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