Moscow-led bloc to send 'peacekeeping forces' to protest-hit Kazakhstan

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  • Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
    Kazakh politician

Peacekeepers from a Russian-led alliance of ex-Soviet states will be sent to Kazakhstan to help stabilise the country after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev appealed for help quelling protests that he said were being led by "terrorists". The Central Asian country has been rocked by protests since the start of the year over a hike in fuel prices.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced the peacekeepers' deployment in a statement published by a Russian news agency.

Kazakhstan's president had earlier in the day asked for assistance from the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), a military alliance of Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

"Today I appealed to the heads of CSTO states to assist Kazakhstan in overcoming this terrorist threat," Tokayev said on state television early Thursday.

"In fact, this is no longer a threat," he added. "It is undermining the integrity of the state."

The Central Asian country has been rocked by protests since the start of the year over a New Year fuel price hike that on Wednesday escalated into protesters clashing with police and storming government buildings.

Moscow leads the CSTO security alliance of former Soviet states.

Tokayev, who earlier imposed a nationwide state of emergency, said that terrorist groups – which he said "received extensive training abroad" – are "currently rampaging" across the country.

"They are seizing buildings and infrastructure and, most importantly, are seizing the premises where small arms are located," he said, adding that they had also seized five planes at the airport in the country's biggest city, Almaty.

"There's currently a battle ongoing near Almaty with the air forces of the defence ministry, a stubborn battle," Tokayev claimed.

Kazakh media outlets reported that at least eight police officers and military servicemen were killed in the unrest.

They cited the interior ministry as saying 317 police and national guard servicemen were injured and eight killed "by the hands of a raging crowd".

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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