By Kulpash Konyrova
Nur-Sultan, Jan 13 (EFE).- A contingent of Russian-led forces started withdrawing from Kazakhstan on Thursday, a week after its deployment to help quell nationwide unrest that gripped the Central Asian nation.
“In line with the will expressed by Kazakhstan, the peacekeeping contingent will be withdrawn to its permanent detachments according to the established schedule,” CSTO secretary-general Stanislav Zas said during a ceremony.
Lining up alongside their fellow Kazakhs, soldiers from Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan were ordered to leave the country by Zas, the Kazakh deputy minister of defense and the mayor of Almaty.
The ceremony took place in Almaty, the republic’s largest city and financial hub, and the epicenter of the protests that broke out over a fuel price hike in the oil and gas-rich country. It was attended by CSTO commander Andrei Serdyukov who thanked the efforts the forces made during the mission.
Some 2,030 peacekeeping troops from the Russian-dominated Collective Security Organization (CSTO) were sent to the former Soviet republic after a request from Kazakh president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to restore order in Almaty, as well as other regions.
The Kazakh leader tried to justify the use of force, as well as the presence of the CSTO troops in the country, saying: “We are dealing with armed and trained bandits, both local and foreign. With bandits and terrorists. So they must be destroyed.”
He said that rioters were mostly from Central Asia, Afghanistan, and the Middle East but did not provide any evidence for his claims.
Tokayev described the unprecedented unrest as an “attempted coup,” and said if it were not for the CSTO, Kazakhstan would have lost control of Almaty during the wave of protests that left around 164 people killed, 1,000 injured and over 12,000 arrested.
On Tuesday, the president said that a gradual withdrawal of the CSTO units will begin in two days and that the process will take no more than 10 days.
According to Moscow, four Russian IL-76 military aircraft began bringing Russian soldiers home.
Most of the soldiers will leave Kazakhstan on Friday.
Kyrgyzstan has confirmed that it will pull out its 150 soldiers on Friday, as well as Tajikistan, which has sent 200 soldiers.
The Kazakh National Security Committee (CSN) announced Thursday that the red level of the terrorist threat has been lifted in all regions, except Almaty and Jambyl
“The stay of the peacekeeping forces in Kazakhstan for a limited time demonstrated the relevance and effectiveness of the CSTO as a prestigious international organization,” said the Kazakh president.EFE