Russia Sends Paratroopers to Kazakhstan to Quell Deadly Unrest

ALMATY (Reuters) -
Troops are seen at the main square where hundreds of people were protesting against the government, after authorities’ decision to lift price caps on liquefied petroleum gas, in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Jan. 6, 2022. (REUTERS/Mariya Gordeyeva)

Russia has sent paratroopers into Kazakhstan as part of an international peacekeeping force to quell deadly unrest in the central Asian country, a military alliance of former Soviet states said on Thursday.

Earlier, Kazakh police said forces had “eliminated” tens of rioters in the largest city of Almaty as the unrest sparked by rising fuel prices boiled over into the biggest protests since independence in 1991.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev had appealed for the intervention of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, blaming foreign-trained “terrorist” gangs for the violent protests.

Several armored personnel carriers and scores of troops entered the main square of Almaty on Thursday morning where hundreds of people were protesting against the government for the third day, Reuters correspondents reported from the scene.

Gunshots were heard as troops approached the crowd, according to Reuters witnesses, but the situation in the square had calmed down since then. Unverified video on social media showed troops patrolling Almaty’s foggy streets overnight, firing weapons, as well as widespread looting in the city.

State media on Thursday showed a pile of weapons on the street, with people walking up and taking them.

TASS news agency quoted the Kazakh Health Ministry as saying more than 1,000 people had been injured during the protests, and more than 400 of them were in the hospital.

Eight police and National Guard troops were killed in the unrest on Tuesday and Wednesday, Russia’s state-owned Sputnik agency said on Wednesday, quoting the Kazakh Interior Ministry. Russian news agencies, quoting Kazakh media, later said two soldiers had also been killed in what they described as an anti-terrorist operation at Almaty Airport.