Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said on Monday that his country had weathered an attempted coup d’etat coordinated by what he called “a single center” after the most violent unrest since the Soviet collapse.
In a speech to an online meeting of the Russian-led CSTO military alliance by video link, Tokayev said that order had now been restored in Kazakhstan, but that the hunt for “terrorists” was ongoing.
“Under the guise of spontaneous protests, a wave of unrest broke out… It became clear that the main goal was to undermine the constitutional order and to seize power. We are talking about an attempted coup d’etat,” he said.
Demonstrations against a fuel price rise began just over a week ago before erupting into a wider protest against Tokayev’s government and the man he replaced as president, 81-year-old Nursultan Nazarbayev.
“The main blow was directed against (the city of) Almaty. The fall of this city would have paved the way for a takeover of the densely populated south and then the whole country,” he said. “Then they planned to seize the capital.”
Kazakhstan‘s biggest city returned to near-normal on Monday after nearly a week of unrest, by far the worst violence in the 30-year independent history of what had been the most stable former Soviet state in Central Asia.
Tokayev said that a large-scale “counter-terrorism” operation would soon end along with a CSTO mission that he said numbered 2,030 troops and 250 pieces of military hardware.
Tokayev defended his decision to invite Russian-led troops into the country and said that doubts over the legitimacy of that mission stemmed from a lack of information.
Kazakhstan would soon provide proof to the international community about what had happened, he said. Sixteen members of the security forces were killed, while the number of civilian casualties is still being checked, he said. Various reports from the country have said that at least 164 people were killed in the Russian-backed government crack-down, including a 4-year-old girl.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory on Monday in defending Kazakhstan from what he described as a foreign-backed terrorist uprising and promised leaders of other ex-Soviet states that a Moscow-led alliance would protect them too.
Putin sent paratroopers last week to protect strategic facilities after anti-government protesters ransacked and torched public buildings. Dozens of people are believed to have been killed in clashes between these security forces and demonstrators in cities across the country.
Russia’s swift deployment demonstrated the Kremlin’s readiness to use force to safeguard its influence in the ex-Soviet Union, at a time when Moscow is also in a standoff with the West over thousands of troops massed near Ukraine.
Putin told a virtual summit of the CSTO military alliance of ex-Soviet states that the body had managed to “prevent the undermining of the foundations of the state, the complete degradation of the internal situation in Kazakhstan, and block terrorists, criminals, looters and other criminal elements.”
“Of course, we understand the events in Kazakhstan are not the first and far from the last attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of our states from the outside,” he said. “The measures taken by the CSTO have clearly shown we will not allow the situation to be rocked at home.”
Russia and Kazakhstan have both portrayed the unrest as a foreign-backed insurrection, although they have not said who they blame for organizing it.
(Reporting by Tamara Vaal, Olzhas Auyezov, Tom Balmforth, Andrew Osborn, Shamil ZhumatovWriting by Peter Graff, Editing by William Maclean; Additions for FISM News by Michael Cardinal))
Copyright 2022 Thomson/Reuters