YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan expressed hope that troops sent by Russia, Armenia and other members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) will help Kazakhstan end domestic unrest as he chaired a virtual summit of the Russian-led alliance on Monday, January 10.
“We hope that the efforts within the framework of the CSTO aimed at assisting friendly Kazakhstan will help restore the country normal life in the shortest possible time,” Pashinyan told the emergency video conference attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The purposefulness of our actions towards the earliest possible stabilization of the situation and the return of the country to normal life is obvious,” he said. ”This is a critical moment for ensuring basic living conditions for citizens and the security of strategically important facilities.”
Cities throughout Kazakhstan have been struck by protests that initially erupted in the western region of Mangystau on January 2 over the doubling in the price of subsidized liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev asked the CSTO for urgent intervention on January 5 as mobs stormed government buildings and looted businesses in his country largest city, Almaty.
The military bloc responded by sending more than 2,000 mostly Russian peacekeeping troops. They are understood to have been deployed in and around Almaty.
Speaking at the CSTO summit, Toqaev said calmly has returned to Kazakhstan after days of violence described by him as “terrorist aggression” and “attempted a coup d’etat.”
Putin likewise claimed that “terrorists” are using social media networks to bring people out into the streets of Kazakhstan as a cover for their attacks. CSTO troops will stymie any attempts by external forces to topple governments within the alliance, he said.
Pashinyan also spoke of the “involvement of international terrorist groups” in the events in Kazakhstan. But like Tokayev, he did not produce any evidence to back up the claim.
In a televised interview on Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced Toqaev’s “shoot to kill” order issued to security forces. Blinken also said Washington is seeking clarification on why the Central Asian nation needed to call in the Russian-led security force.
Pashinyan’s decision to send 100 Armenian troops to Kazakhstan was criticized by Armenian opposition groups as well as civil society members. The latter are concerned about the violent suppression of what they see as legitimate protests against Kazakhstan’s authoritarian government.
Critics also argued that Kazakhstan and other CSTO member states failed to provide Armenia with military assistance requested by Pashinyan after Azerbaijani troops crossed into Armenian territory in May. Kazakh leaders openly congratulated Azerbaijan on its victory in the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The main opposition Hayastan alliance said on Saturday that Yerevan should have supported the Russian-led intervention in Kazakhstan without committing any troops.