Russian Troops Arrive in Kazakhstan to Suppress Unrest

Russian paratroopers arrived on Thursday in Kazakhstan by request of the country’s president to help control the ongoing violent protests that began due to fuel prices and then broadened into overall calls for political reform and national anti-government demonstrations. 

The protests started off peacefully earlier in the week, with the first thousands of Kazakhs condemning the rising fuel costs after the government lifted price controls last week, and then expanding to include calls for political reform.

The protests have now turned violent following an aggressive and heavy-handed response from the Kazakhstan government. Police responded to protesters with tear gas, stun grenades, and aggression. Amid the backlash from its response as well as backlash for the fuel prices, the Kazakhstan government resigned this week. 

On Thursday afternoon, Russia’s “Peacekeeping forces” arrived in Kazakhstan from Moscow to put an end to the unrest in Kazakhstan. The request was made through the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), an intergovernmental military alliance between Russia and some of the former Soviet states, including Kazakhstan, as well as Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. 

Dozens of police and civilians have reportedly been killed in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty. The ongoing protest marks the biggest protest movement the country has seen since its independence in 1991. The country declared a nationwide state of emergency on Wednesday following the government’s resignation. 

The protests began Jan. 2 in the province of Mangystau, which is an oil-producing province in the western part of the country, after the near doubling of gas prices. The protests then spread quickly throughout the country, and into Almaty. This is where police and protesters came to a head. Witnesses today have been describing absolute chaos in Almaty.

More than 2,000 arrests have already been made by authorities, and there are reportedly 400 in the hospital and more than 1,000 total injured. Dozens of protesters and 18 officers have died in the ongoing violence. Authorities claim that one officer was found beheaded. 

The US has condemned the violence, and called for restraint from both sides. 

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