Russian-led forces began their withdrawal from Kazakhstan on Thursday after carrying out operations to support the authorities in the face of unprecedented riots that rocked the former Soviet republic.
In the morning in Almaty – the economic capital of Kazakhstan – an official ceremony was held for the soldiers who participated in the operation under the banner of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the military alliance led by Moscow.
Russian General Andrei Serdyukov said that “the peacekeeping operation has ended (…) the tasks have been accomplished.”
Serdyukov is the commander of a CSTO battalion that includes 2,030 soldiers from Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
The troops arrived in Kazakhstan on January 6, and must complete their withdrawal before January 22, according to the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Kazakh authorities.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, these forces “began preparing their military and technical equipment for transfer to Russian Air Force planes, with the aim of returning to their permanent base.”
The Russian forces also began handing over the infrastructure and buildings that had been securing their protection a few days ago to the Kazakh authorities.
Kazakhstan was rocked last week by violence not seen at all since its independence in 1991. It has resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries and prompted the authorities to request the deployment of peacekeepers led by Russia.
looting and shooting
The most serious violence took place in Almaty, with shootings, looting of shops and burning of the city hall and the presidential residence.
The riots erupted following demonstrations that began in January, protesting against the rise in gas prices, against the backdrop of the deterioration of the standard of living and “the rampant corruption in the former Soviet Republic.”
As a result of these disturbances, the authorities arrested at least 12 thousand people.
The authorities described the riots as a “terrorist” attack. The Kazakh authorities’ narrative was supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin and other neighboring countries.
Earlier, the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, announced that the crucial stage of what he described as the “anti-terrorist operation” in his country had ended, and that the peacekeeping forces that his country had requested from the “Collective Security Treaty Organization” would begin to withdraw.