ALMATY/JAN. 6 (The Bulletin) – Russian paratroopers flew into Almaty on Thursday, part of a contingent of soldiers from the former Soviet Union that are deploying to help quash anti-government protesters.
Announcing the deployment, Nikol Pashinyan, the Armenian PM and the current chairman of the Kremlin-led CSTO, said that the soldiers were a peacekeeping force and had been deployed at the request of Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
In central Almaty, video showed Kazakh soldiers fighting gun battles with armed protesters. A police spokesperson said that “dozens” of people had been killed.
The unrest in Kazakhstan is tipping into an armed insurrection. On Wednesday, video showed protesters arming themselves with automatic rifles as they burnt and looted government buildings and shops in Almaty. This gave the authorities the opportunity to deploy soldiers to fight the protesters.
Now, after days of losing the PR campaign around peaceful protests that had sprung up over fuel price increases and grievances over allegations of corruption against the elite, Pres. Tokayev is wrestling to regain the initiative and to frame protesters as “terrorists”.
The authorities have cut off the internet in Kazakhstan and sent SMS messages to households warning them that an “anti-terrorist operation” is ongoing and that they should stay inside.