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After a suspected coup attempt was thwarted, Russia-led bloc began withdrawing from Kazakhstan

Russia's President Vladimir Putin meets with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in Moscow, Russia January 13, 2022. Sputnik/Alexey Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS

After a week of deployment, a Russia-led military group began withdrawing out of Kazakhstan on Thursday, amid an uprising in which officials in the Central Asian country said the former security chief was accused of staging a coup.

The news: Russia declared that the troop pull-out would be finished by January 19, a month earlier than previously anticipated. Western politicians, concerned about a build-up of Russian soldiers near Ukraine, have criticised their deployment. Moscow has denied any preparations to invade, but said security discussions this week had reached a stalemate, threatening further repercussions.

  • President Vladimir Putin described the mission in Kazakhstan as a success and a practise that should be studied further.
  • Last week, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev requested help from the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) after initially calm protests sparked by a dramatic increase in car fuel prices became violent in numerous major towns.
  • At a leaving ceremony in Almaty on Thursday, Kazakh Deputy Defence Minister Mukhamedzhan Talasov told CSTO troops, “Thanks to your arrival, Kazakh military and security forces were able to carry out their immediate job of discovering and capturing bandits.” The Russian contingent was the largest.

What’s going on: On Wednesday, Kazakh authorities hailed the end of an “anti-terrorist operation” in much of the country, though they have yet to declare Almaty, the country’s largest city, totally secure.

  • It was unclear how many of the 2,500 troops deployed in by the CSTO were leaving right away.
  • CSTO forces were first stationed in government buildings in Nur-Sultan, the capital city, far from the hotspots of disturbance, and then in Almaty, where they guarded critical infrastructure objects such as huge power plants.
  • Nearly 10,000 people have been arrested as a result of the turmoil, which saw some protestors attack security officers, capture and fire government buildings, and plunder stores.
  • According to reports, some of the assailants were foreigners who had been trained by Islamist terrorists. Although Tokayev did not specify who the foreigners were, he claimed that this warranted CSTO intervention. He has fired a number of his top security officials, who have now been charged with treason.
  • On Thursday, Kazakhstani authorities announced that they were investigating Karim Masimov, the former chief of state security, for a possible coup attempt.
Russian servicemen take part in the ceremony marking the beginning of the withdrawal of peacekeeping troops of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) from Kazakhstan, in Almaty, Kazakhstan January 13, 2022. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev

What they’re saying: At the height of the upheaval, Tokayev announced that he would be succeeding former president, Nursultan Nazarbayev as head of the security council, a position in which the long-time former leader still wielded extensive powers. Since the protests started, Nazarbayev has not been seen in public.

  • Some Kazakhs have echoed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remark that Kazakhstan might find it difficult to get rid of Russian troops after allowing them in. Tokayev has stated that after January 23rd, no foreign forces will be present in the nation.
  • According to the Interfax news agency, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu indicated on Thursday that the disengagement would be finished on January 19.
  • Putin hailed the efforts of the CSTO peacekeepers.
  • On official television, Putin told Shoigu, “Everything worked like clockwork: fast, coherent, and effective. I want to thank you, the general staff, and everyone else who helped lead this operation for their efforts, and I hope that this practise of deploying our armed forces will be looked at further.”
  • “We should, in general, come home. We’ve completed our mission,” he added.

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