Kazakhstan’s president says the riots were an “attempted coup”

Kazakhstan’s president said Monday that the unrest in his country, which left fatalities, was an “attempted coup” and promised that Russian and allied troops supporting the government would leave “soon.”

Life gradually returned to normal in Almaty, the largest city and economic capital of the Central Asian country, where the riots were the most serious.

The authorities partially restored the Internet connection, but the burned facades of public buildings and charred vehicles continued to bear witness to the violence of the clashes.

In a videoconference, Kazakh President Kassym Jomart Tokayev took stock of events against his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and his other allies, who deployed 2,030 men in the former Soviet republic.

Both he and the Kremlin leader promised the withdrawal of these forces once their mission was accomplished.

The number of victims of the riots, the worst in the former Soviet republic since its independence in 1991, is still unknown.

Tokayev said the number of civilian casualties was “being verified” and spoke of 16 dead and more than 1,600 wounded among the security forces. However, the total number of deaths is counted by dozens, according to local authorities.

The president said that his country had been attacked by “groups of armed combatants” who had taken advantage of the demonstrations over the increase in fuel prices as an excuse to act.

“Its main objective appeared clearly: to undermine the constitutional order, destroy government institutions and seize power. It was an attempted coup,” said Kassym Jomart Tokayev.

The violent riots, which started suddenly, prompted the Kazakh president to ask Russia for help.

On January 6, a multinational contingent from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Moscow-led alliance, was deployed.

According to Tokayev, the 2,030 soldiers and 250 vehicles will leave Kazakhstan “soon”.

Vladimir Putin confirmed that his soldiers were there “for a limited period.”

The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, had stated on the contrary that it would be “very difficult” to remove the Russian military.

After days of looting, shootings and the burning of the Almaty presidential residence and city hall, Tokayev declared on Monday that “constitutional order has been restored.”

According to him, the country was the victim of organized “terrorist” forces, which included “Islamists” as well as “criminals”, “thugs” and “petty criminals”.

Tokayev assured that the Kazakh forces “have never used and will never use military force against peaceful protesters.”

On Tuesday, the Kazakh president will have to present to Parliament the composition of the new government, as the previous one was removed last week, in an attempt to quell the protests.

Vladimir Putin also said that Kazakhstan had faced “aggression from international terrorism”, referring to “gangs of armed men” who “clearly have combat experience” and who were trained in “centers abroad”.

The Russian president blamed the internet and social networks, used – according to him – to “involve citizens in acts of protest that are a precursor to terrorist attacks.”

He then warned that Moscow would not tolerate “color revolutions” in the former USSR, an expression to describe the Kremlin-orchestrated revolts by the West in former Soviet countries since the 2000s.

A day of mourning was observed in Kazakhstan on Monday, and the internet, telephone network and public transportation were restored in Almaty. Municipal employees cleaned the streets and replaced damaged traffic signs, AFP journalists found.

Mass arrests continued with nearly 8,000 people arrested across the country, according to figures from the Interior Ministry.

In addition to rising prices, the protesters’ anger was also directed at the country’s endemic corruption and at 81-year-old former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who ruled the country unopposed from 1989 to 2019, before handing over the reins of power to a loyalist, Kassym Jomart Tokayev.

Nazarbayev has not appeared publicly since the riots began amid rumors that he has fled abroad. His spokesman, Aydos Ukibai, said on Saturday that the former president was asking the population to support the government.



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