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Russia-led troops to start leaving Kazakhstan in 2 days

January 11, 2022

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said the pullout as a whole would take less than two weeks. He also voiced rare criticism of the country's former leader Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Servicemen and military equipment of Russia's Airborne Forces, part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) peacekeeping forces, is unloaded from a transport aircraft
The 'Collective Peacekeeping Forces to Kazakhstan' were deployed after a request by Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart TokayevImage: Russian Defence Ministry/picture alliance

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev told parliament on Tuesday that the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) military bloc will start withdrawing its troops from Kazakhstan in two days.

"The main mission of the CSTO peacekeeping forces has been successfully completed," Tokayev said during a session broadcast live on state television.

"In two days a phased withdrawal of the CSTO united peacekeeping contingent will begin. The withdrawal process of the contingent will take no more than 10 days," he said.

This comes after nearly a week of unrest, by far the worst violence in the 30-year independent history of the former Soviet state.

A mission of more than 2,000 troops and military hardware was deployed at the peak of the crisis last week amid concerns that Moscow would use the presence of its forces to shore up its influence in Kazakhstan.

Criticism of predecessor's rule

Tokayev had rare words of criticism for his mentor, 81-year-old Nursultan Nazarbayev who, despite stepping down from the presidency in 2019, retains the constitutional status of "Leader of the Nation."

He said Nazarbayev's rule had created "a layer of wealthy people, even by international standards."

”I believe that the time has come to pay tribute to the people of Kazakhstan and help them on a systematic and regular basis," Tokayev said. He added that "very profitable companies" would be asked to pay money into a state fund.

On Tuesday, Tokayev also nominated candidates for government posts, including that of the prime minister.

He picked acting prime minister Alikhan Smailov to take on the job permanently, and Kazakhstan's lower house swiftly voted to confirm his nomination with unanimous support.

Smailov, 49, served as deputy prime minister in the government that resigned last week.

Turkey welcomed the appointment of the new prime minister and the easing of tensions, the country's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at an extraordinary virtual meeting of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS).

He added that Turkic nations would stand by Kazakhstan with all their resources and provide full support.

The OTS includes Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey, and Uzbekistan. Hungary and Turkmenistan are observer nations.

A week of violent unrest

Government buildings in several cities were briefly captured or set alight after protests escalated.

Dozens of people were killed in clashes between protesters and government forces in what Tokayev called an attempted coup d'etat coordinated by "a single center."

Troops were ordered to shoot to kill to put down the unrest that grew out of a peaceful protest against an energy price hike in the west of the country.

Security forces have detained 9,900 people since the crisis began in the oil-rich Central Asian nation, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday.

adi/rt (Reuters, AFP)