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Kazakhstan: Russian-led forces begin withdrawal

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The mission is over. The forces led by Russia launched their withdrawal from Kazakhstan (Central Asia) on Thursday, where they had been dispatched on January 6 to support the power in place in the face of unprecedented riots, announced the Russian Ministry of Defense. A solemn ceremony bringing together the soldiers of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance led by Moscow, took place on this occasion on Thursday morning in Almaty, the economic capital of the country, according to a correspondent of the AFP. The withdrawal must be completed in ten days, according to Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and the CSTO.

“The peacekeeping operation is over (…), the tasks have been fulfilled,” welcomed Russian General Andrei Serdioukov, commander of the CSTO contingent which included more than 2,000 Russian, Belarusian, Armenians, Tajiks and Kyrgyz. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, these troops have begun “to prepare military and technical equipment for loading into Russian aviation aircraft for return to their permanent base”.

At least 160 dead

Kazakhstan has recently been rocked by a social movement and violence not seen since its independence in 1991. At least 160 people have died – 12,000 people have been arrested – prompting Kazakhstan to seek Russian help for a CSTO deployment.

The most serious violence took place in Almaty with exchanges of fire, the looting of shops and the burning of the town hall and the presidential residence. They were described as a “terrorist” attack by the authorities, and broke out after demonstrations against rising gas prices, against a backdrop of deteriorating living standards and endemic corruption in this ex-Soviet state.

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