Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

Kiev, Ukraine – With their country’s fate discussed at this week US-Russia talks, Ukrainians took to the streets over the weekend to defend their independence and defend an additional issue – that of Kazakhstan’s protests.

On Sunday, protesters in Kiev and Kharkov, Ukraine’s second-largest city, held signs reading “Say no to Putin” and waved Kazakhstan’s flags with the Ukrainian.

Kazakhstan’s blue and gold flag also appeared in the winter sky over Kiev, which was flown from a drone in an act of protest organized by Dronarium, an unmanned aerial vehicle enthusiast community known for political statements.

“Every nation has the right to protect their socio-economic and political rights through peaceful protest,” said drone operator Vitaly Shevchuk. “We condemn violence in any form, but we are also opposed to foreign military intervention in Kazakhstan under the guise of a peace operation, which is more like punitive action and runs the risk of becoming a profession.”

After a week of violent protests which began with a rise in fuel prices and spread rapidly across the country – with at least 164 dead, 2,000 injured and nearly 6,000 arrested – a Russian-led military alliance now has control of Kazakhstan restored to the government.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), an alliance of several former Soviet states, has deployed about 2,500 troops to Kazakhstan to help stop the protest, including Russian paratroopers guarding “essential facilities and social infrastructure”, a statement from the Russian Ministry of Defense said.

Critics have accused Russia of “occupation” over its involvement, with Kazakh Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former opposition minister, warning that President Vladimir Putin would move the country into “a structure like the Soviet Union” unless the West intervened. .

More motivated by their own hopes to defy Putin than to share a common cause with the protests, Ukrainians also encouraged resistance.

“The dictator [Putin] wants to forcibly rebuild the USSR, ”said Olga Angelova, who was among the protesters in Kiev.

“He must be stopped – our Ukrainians will resist the occupiers. “We call on the West not to accept a Putin ultimatum,” she said, referring to this week’s talks on a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine KazakhstanKazakhstan’s blue and gold flag fluttering in winter over Kiev as protesters show solidarity with those in the Central Asian nation [Courtesy: Dronarium]

At the head of the CSTO in Kazakhstan are Commander Andrey Serdyukov, who has caused further speculation of occupation of Ukrainians – the colonel-general previously led troops in Crimea, annexed by Moscow in 2014, and Donbas, led by Russia- supported separatists.

As US and Russian diplomats meet this week, with talks in Geneva and Brussels starting on Monday, the negotiations could become a defining moment in the history of NATO-Russia relations.

However, Ukraine will be absent in two of the three negotiation sessions, allowing the refrain “No decisions on Ukraine without Ukraine” to be widely used, including by Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s former foreign minister.

The current threat comes after eight years of low-level conflict that killed more than 13,000 people.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke of “diplomacy and de-escalation” last week, but on Sunday Washington lowered expectations of a breakthrough in the talks and Russia said it would not make concessions under US pressure. .

Experts are divided on how the unrest in Kazakhstan could affect Putin’s position on Ukraine – whether it would prevent pressure with his now divided attention, or encourage him and make him less willing to compromise.

“Putin is likely to be smart and seek a major victory over Ukraine as a result of his humiliation in Kazakhstan,” said Timothy Ash, senior strategist at BlueBay Asset Management.

“[US President Joe] Biden is likely to see the situation in Kazakhstan deteriorate – the US will assess the situation if it makes it less likely that Putin will risk a crisis on two fronts. Bidding is therefore also less likely to compromise.

“It makes the situation in Ukraine more, not less dangerous.”

The US has been warning for weeks that Russia has stationed masses of troops near Ukraine with the possible aim of launching a new invasion.

It is not believed that there has been any significant movement in the last few weeks and a withdrawal of 10,000 soldiers was reported in late December, but the remaining troops are in positions where they could possibly strike parts of the country.

As a result, the US and Ukraine have expanded their cooperation on intelligence and security matters.

If Moscow does take military action, Washington officials are preparing unprecedented sanctions and trying to gain support from European allies in the form of similar measures.

According to The New York Times, the sanctions are likely to be aimed at “cutting off Russia’s largest financial institutions that depend on global financial transfers” in a “high-impact, swift action” that was not pursued in 2014.

For the negotiations to be successful, there must be a compromise.

Russia has issued an ultimatum in exchange for easing tensions with Ukraine – that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO – but this has already been rejected by the US and NATO.

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