CSTO forces withdraw from Kazakhstan: Russian Def Min

The Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) forces under Russian command began withdrawing from Kazakhstan. Protected sites are being handed over to the Kazakh forces, the Russian Defence Ministry said on Thursday.

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The ministry added that the transfer of significant facilities is taking place in accordance with the plan developed by the CSTO forces and the Russian defence ministry.

“The return of the CSTO peacekeepers to their countries will be organised in cooperation with the Kazakh side,” the Defence Ministry stressed.

At the request of the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, over 2,000 troops from Russia, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus arrived in the country on January 6. These forces were to ensure the protection of key administrative and military facilities during the anti-government demonstrations and riots that broke out in Kazakhstan on January 2.

The Kazakh President announced on Wednesday that the peace mission of the CSTO forces had been completed. Their withdrawal is to last 10 days.

The CSTO is a military-political bloc created after the collapse of the USSR. It includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Among the Russian airborne forces, Belarus sent a company of peacekeepers from the airborne brigade. Kyrgyzstan sent an approximately 150-strong squad of special forces soldiers, Armenia - 100 of its troops, and Tajikistan - an approximately 200-strong battalion.

Protests in Kazakhstan were initially associated with a double increase in LPG prices, but with time they expanded and became political. They transformed into riots, especially in the former capital of Almaty. Authorities announced that it was a coup attempt led by “armed fighters”. The president issued an order “shoot to kill” and the protests were brutally suppressed. Thousands of people were detained, while 160 were killed, including 16 officers of the law enforcement agencies.