Russian President Vladimir Putin is crediting his troops with helping restore order and preserve the authoritarian regime in Kazakhstan following a week’s worth of unrest from what he described as a terrorist uprising backed by foreign powers.
Shops have begun reopening as traffic returned to Almaty, Kazakhstan’s biggest city, the Reuters news agency reported. Cleaning crews are continuing to remove debris from the streets, still littered with the hulks of burnt-out cars, after security forces violently confronted anti-government protesters last week.
For the first time since Wednesday, the internet was turned on for several hours. Meanwhile, the area near the mayor’s office was under the control of security forces. Police searched cars at checkpoints, Reuters said.
Russian paratroopers were sent to Kazakhstan last week at the head of a regional peacekeeping mission to protect “strategic facilities” following violent demonstrations that resulted in public buildings being ransacked and torched. More than 140 protesters are believed to have been killed in fighting between government forces and demonstrators in cities across the country, and thousands more have been detained.
The deployment of the Russian military forces into Kazakhstan is occurring at the same time Moscow has been engaged in a tense standoff with the West over massing troops along its border with Ukraine. While Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Monday claimed the protests were fueled by unidentified foreign agitators, the first demonstrations in western Kazakhstan centered on a sharp rise in fuel prices and quickly spread to other cities around the vast Central Asian nation.
Mr. Putin on Monday embraced the Kazakh regime’s description of the protests and hailed the apparent victory of the government in suppressing the unrest.
“Of course, we understand the events in Kazakhstan are not the first and far from the last attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of our states from the outside,” Mr. Putin said, according to Reuters.
Moscow has said they would offer military assistance to leaders of other former Soviet states facing similar uprisings. Mr. Putin told a virtual summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization — an alliance of ex-Soviet states that dispatched Russian and allied troops to Kazakhstan — that the mission in Kazakhstan prevented the “complete degradation of the internal situation” there and blocked terrorists, looters “and other criminal elements.”