By Dmitri Chirciu
MOSCOW (AA) - A Russia-led military alliance on Thursday sent its peacekeeping troops to Kazakhstan, where massive riots stemming from nationwide protests over high fuel prices have led to a state of emergency and the resignation of the government.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) said in a statement that the organization took the decision to send the peacekeeping forces to Kazakhstan to stabilize and normalize the situation in the country.
Underlining that these forces consist of military units from Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, it said there are military units of the Russian Airborne Forces among the peacekeeping forces of the CSTO.
It added that the peacekeeping forces were sent by the Russian Air Force planes.
Earlier, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev requested help from the CSTO, a military alliance that brings together six former Soviet republics, including Russia, to put an end to the riots in the country, which he described as “a terrorist threat.”
- Protests in former Soviet country
The protests broke out on Jan. 2, when drivers in the city of Zhanaozen in the country’s oil-rich Mangystau region staged demonstrations against huge price hikes for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which later spread to the city of Aktau.
Supportive protests in the western cities of Atyrau, Aktobe and Oral, where the country’s petroleum and natural gas reserves are located, spread to other corners of Kazakhstan and turned into public demonstrations.
As the protests spread across the country, Tokayev declared a state of emergency in the city of Almaty and the Mangystau region from Jan. 5-19 to maintain public security. He also imposed a curfew in Almaty, the country’s former capital, where thousands of people had taken to the streets.
While police used stun grenades and teargas to disperse the protesters, they responded with stones. Clashes were also reported between the police and demonstrators.
Tokayev accepted the government’s resignation in a presidential decree. Later, demonstrations reached a nationwide level, followed by a countrywide state of emergency.
The government also decided Wednesday to introduce price controls on LPG, gasoline, diesel fuel and basic food products for 180 days.
*Writing by Gozde Bayar