01/10/2022, 13.45
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Kazakh crisis: Tokaev blames foreign terrorists to justify Russian support

Official line: Csto troops, led by Moscow, intervened to protect government structures from attacks by foreign trained Islamists. In all likelihood, Moscow military used in the power struggle with the faction of former President Nazarbayev. So far the energy pipelines are safe, including those to China.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The government of Kazakhstan has declared that Islamist radicals trained abroad are among those responsible for the recent attacks on government offices and security forces. The authorities in Nur-Sultan, who speak of about 8,000 arrests, however, do not mention any specific terrorist group.

The protests, which broke out on January 2 due to the rising cost of living, have spread to most of Kazakhstan. Demands to lower the price of gas have been joined by demands for political change in a country dominated by elites linked to former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the nation's father-master since its independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It now seems that President Kassym-Jomart Tokaev has regained control of the situation. Tristan Kenderdine, an analyst based in Kazakhstan and director of Future Risk, points out to AsiaNews, the fact that the authorities are issuing press releases in English for the international media indicates that they are confident of maintaining control.

Not all areas are pacified though. Last night there were reportedly two more gunbattles, one in Taldykorgan, about 200 km north of Almaty (one of the epicenters of the protests) and another on its outskirts, along the highway into Kyrgyzstan, notes Kenderdine. Today there are also vague reports of weapons seized by the Security Forces, as well as of opponents gaining access to government arsenals.

 To quell the uprising, Tokaev has requested support from Russian-led military forces from the Csto (Collective Security Treaty Organization). "Almost no one [in Kazakhstan] is in favor of this scenario," Kenderdine says. He explains, however, that given the range of scenarios that could emerge, the Russian initiative might prove to be the lesser evil.

Kenderdine echoes the statements of eyewitnesses during the early stages of the peaceful protests, "it seems fairly clear now that a secondary, more coordinated, element was injected into the naturally formed protests. However whomever orchestrated this group is much more likely to have been part of the inter-clan power struggle than connected to any outside interference", he adds.

With the blocking of the internet, it is difficult to independently assess the news that is circulating. Kenderdine claims that the foreign trail is an "absurd" attempt by the Tokaev government to justify the deployment of Csto troops. Out of fear that Nazarbaev's men would partly control the security apparatus during the riots, the expert speculates, Tokaev would have allowed the arrival of 2,500-5,000 soldiers from the Russian-dominated organization.

In  light of this there are emerging Chinese concerns about the stability of Kazakhstan, where Beijing has many strategic and economic interests, especially with regard to the operation of the gas and oil pipelines from which it obtains its supplies.

"We have not heard any disruptions to the energy infrastructure," Kenderdine reveals. The researcher points out that any group that wants to come to power would not sabotage the gas and oil pipelines, which represent the wealth of the nation. He also points out that the crisis has nothing to do with relations between the country and China.

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