Kazakh leader: Russia's-led security group to withdraw troops

MOSCOW (AP), Tuesday's announcement by the president of Kazakhstan that a Russia-led alliance for security will begin pulling out troops from Central Asia in two days.

Kazakh leader: Russia's-led security group to withdraw troops

The Collective Security Treaty Organization, which is a military alliance of six ex-Soviet states, sent the mostly Russian troops to Kazakhstan last week at President Trump's request. This was amid the worst public unrest since the Soviet Union gained independence thirty years ago.

On Jan. 2, protests against rising fuel prices broke out in Central Asia, a nation of 19million people. They quickly spread throughout the country with political slogans expressing wider discontent at the authoritarian government. The demonstrations escalated violently over the next few days with many civilians and law enforcers being killed.

Almaty, Kazakhstan's capital and former largest city, was the scene of protests that set fire to government buildings and briefly took control of the airport. The weekend was mostly responsible for calming down the unrest.

President Kassym Jomart Tokayev blamed unrest on foreign-backed terrorists and claimed that his request to help the CSTO was legitimate.

"When this decision was made, we could have lost complete control over Almaty which was being torn down by terrorists. Tokayev said Tuesday that if we had lost Almaty, we would also have lost the country's capital."

According to the president, the CSTO has largely finished its mission and will begin withdrawing its troops within two days. This will not take more than 10 days.

When asked if such a move was premature, Kazakhstani troops arrived in Kazakhstan just five days ago, Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, said that it was Kazakhstan's right to do so. Peskov stated that it was their analysis and they have no right to interfere.

Tokayev also named a new prime Minister and a new Cabinet on Tuesday. Some deputy prime ministers as well as ministers from previous governments remained in their positions.

Last week, Kazakhstan's government announced its resignation. This was one of many concessions made to calm protesters. It also included a 180-day limit on fuel prices and the removal of Nursultan Nagayev, the former leader of Kazakhstan, from his powerful post as head of the National Security Council.

Alikhan Smailov (49 years old) is the new prime minister. He was previously Kazakhstan's finance minister and first deputy prime minister.

Almaty was the hardest hit city, and it has been slowly returning to normal. Public transport is now back in operation, and malls are reopening. The damage was being assessed by the owners of the shops that were looted during the unrest.

Galina Karpenko reported that her underwear shop was ransacked and she had lost approximately $10,000 in stolen goods.

"This is a large sum. It is really not. Because we couldn't afford rent, I shut down several outlets. My favorite outlet, which was making a profit and feeding my family, has taken a hit," she stated. "I am so distraught, God is my witness, I don’t know how to feed our children."

The Interior Ministry of Kazakhstan reported Tuesday that 9,900 people had been detained in connection with the unrest. Tokayev's office also reported that 338 criminal investigations into mass unrest have been opened.

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