Putin names who he believes escalated Kazakhstan unrest
Criminals from overseas swooped in on the unrest unfolding in Kazakhstan last month, when protests attended by thousands subsequently turned violent and left over 200 people dead, Russian President Vladimir Putin has alleged.
Speaking ahead of talks with Kazakh leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, earlier this week, his first visit abroad since the mass protests, Putin set out his view of the events that took place in the Central Asian nation at the beginning of the year.
“This is our first meeting after the January events, when Kazakhstan became, without any exaggeration, a victim of some international gangs who took advantage of the difficult situation in the country,” the Russian president said.
According to Tokayev, these so-called “terrorists and bandits” from abroad attacked the former Soviet Republic “with the aim of undermining the constitutional order and, of course, committing a coup d'etat.”
Putin said that “nevertheless, the situation has been restored, as you know, Russia, as one of the CSTO countries … put its shoulder to Kazakhstan.”
The unrest spurred Tokyaev to call on the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, which unites the armed forces of six former Soviet Republics, for assistance in “overcoming the terrorist threat.” The CSTO subsequently withdrew from the country after finishing its peacekeeping mission.
Rallies broke out across Kazakhstan in early January when large groups of mostly peaceful demonstrators stepped out to oppose the removal of price controls on LPG, a fuel used by many to power their cars.
The protests became more violent in the following days, with Kazakh officials alleging that armed criminals hijacked the movement and attacked law enforcement officers. According to them, up to 20,000 “terrorists” took part in the violence.
However, no evidence has been put forward to support this statement. Instead, claims that the assailants could have busted into morgues to steal the bodies of their fellow accomplices and “cover their tracks” drew derision from analysts.
In mid-January, the UN Human Rights Office demanded an impartial investigation into the deaths of protesters during the demonstrations. Serik Shalabayev, a top Kazakh law enforcement official, said that 225 people lost their lives in the unrest, with more than 4,300 believed to have been injured.