Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

Weeks after dozens died in deadly protests, President Tokayev has named Alikhan Smailov as prime minister.

After a week of deadly unrest in Kazakhstan, Russia-led forces sent to stem riots are preparing to withdraw while President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev sees a new prime minister.

Tokayev said on Tuesday that the contingent of troops he had requested from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance of former Soviet states, would begin leaving the troubled Central Asian country in two days, with the withdrawal to no more than 10 days.

Kazakhstan and Russia described last week’s crisis as a coup attempt assisted by foreign “terrorists”, but provided little evidence to support the claim.

The clashes, in which civilians and police were killed, arose from a peaceful protest against a rise in energy prices in the west of the oil-rich nation.

Kazakh security forces detained nearly 10,000 people over the unrest, Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Tokayev, who earlier the government fired in an effort to alleviate disagreement, Alikhan nominated Smailov as prime minister, and the lower house of parliament quickly agreed to the post.

Smailov, 49, served as first deputy prime minister in the previous cabinet, which fired Tokayev.

The death toll from last week’s protests is unclear, as reliable information is difficult to verify in the tightly controlled former Soviet country.

On Sunday, the Ministry of Information withdrew a statement it said more than 164 people had died in the unrest, blaming the publication on a “technical error”.

Officials said earlier that 26 “armed criminals” had been killed and 16 security guards dead.

CSTO mission ‘completed’: Tokayev

Addressing the government and parliament in a video conference call broadcast live on Tuesday, Tokayev said: “The main mission of the CSTO peacekeepers has been successfully completed.”

The CSTO mission of more than 2,000 troops was dispatched last week at the height of the crisis, following armed clashes between government opponents and security forces and a looting that made parts of the largest city, Almaty, almost unrecognizable.

The decision to send troops as peacekeepers was a first for the CSTO, often touted by Moscow as a NATO equivalent, but previously reluctant to interfere in unrest in Central Asia, a region with long historical ties with Russia.

Concerns have increased that Moscow could use the mission to bolster its influence in Kazakhstan.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned last week that “once Russians are in your house, it is sometimes very difficult to get them to leave”.INTERACTIVE- KAZAKHSTAN CSTO

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