As night falls in Almaty, the financial capital of Kazakhstan, the sirens continue to remind us that the night curfew is in effect and after 11:00 pm there is hardly a soul on the street. But otherwise, life seems to be burying the embers of the violent protests that have rocked this city, the epicenter of the riots that have brought the state under control and rocked the Geopolitical Council of Central Asia.
The signs of normalcy are already clear. On Thursday, the charred building of the mayor’s office, one of the buildings that saw the worst part in the past week, was covered with a net that disguised the soot scars; The main street, which was the scene of violent armed clashes, reopened to traffic. Above all, the final show, the Russian-led forces that have entered the country to help defuse the crisis, may have already begun their withdrawal on Thursday.
The contingent of more than 2,000 soldiers from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Moscow-led post-Soviet military association, landed in the country last week after Kazakh President Kassym Yumart Tokayev requested help in containing the protest that began peacefully in The beginning of the year, prompted by the high prices of LPG in this oil and gas-rich country, but it ended with dozens of deaths (there is no verifiable number). ) – and 10,000 detainees, according to official data from the Kazakh government – the vast majority of them are in Almaty.
The entry of foreign forces lifted the Kazakh riots to a different geopolitical dimension, abruptly adding to the tension that had already erupted between Washington, Brussels and Moscow over the build-up of Russian troops at the gates of Ukraine. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has gone so far as to say that it may be difficult for Kazakhstan to get rid of the presence of Russian troops once they enter the country. But Moscow confirmed on Thursday that the CSTO unit would have completed its march on Jan. 19, even earlier than expected.
“Everything went like clockwork: fast, consistent and efficient,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday, according to comments compiled by Reuters. “We should go home. We have accomplished our mission.” The president’s statements reveal an aura of satisfaction with the spread of lightning, at a critical time, he, in turn, on the other hand, was negotiating with the West over the pawns of Ukraine. “I want […] I hope that this practice of using our armed forces will be studied in the future,” the Russian president added.
For Duzym Satbayev, a political analyst and director of the Kazakh Risk Assessment Group, Putin is “one of the big winners” after the peace of tanks imposed on the streets of Kazakhstan, says this elegant political scientist inside a bright cafe in Almaty. Another sign of normality in the city: people actually gather quietly to talk in cafes, most of which are open. Satbayev explains that if, in recent years, Kazakhstan has developed a policy of “multi-directional” foreign relations, dealing with all kinds of countries, from China to the United States, then rapprochement with Moscow will be evident in the coming months. “right Now [el país] He has debts with Mr. Putin”; which means that its domestic and international agenda will take it into account with the new circumstances. In a way, the crisis and its consequences have placed Kazakhstan in a league of countries such as Belarus, whose turn towards Moscow appeared after the democratic uprisings of the summer of 2020, which were severely suppressed by the regime Alexander Lukashenko, and her growing isolation in front of the international community.
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With the army retreating, the strange normality in which broken glass has been erased and the presence of military patrols in urban areas continues, the complex task of unraveling what happened in the coming weeks in Kazakhstan remains: the exact number of dead, for example, or the correctness of the statements of President Tokayev, who He justified the entry of foreign forces by claiming that the country was facing “bandits and terrorists” who came in part from abroad with the intent of subverting the regime. These alleged attackers were estimated at 20,000 people, another figure that could not be independently confirmed.
“It’s not correct information,” the analyst Satbaev protested again. According to him, most of those who turned the peaceful riots into violent unrest were young people, between the ages of 17 and 25, of Kazakhs who come from the outskirts of the city and from other parts of the country; Many are unemployed or in precarious jobs, low wages and mediocre living conditions; People are ready to climb the steep slopes of the city from the outskirts, to reach the highlands of Almaty, where it breathes fresh air and the life of the rich class, to confront the forces of order, vandalize buildings and loot numerous shops.
Satbaev portrayed this young man in 2014, in a book called “Molotov Cocktail”. An autopsy of Kazakh youth, in which he talks about the explosive social situation and the massive inequality that has arisen since the fall of the Soviet Union and the independence of Kazakhstan. “When our officials talk about terrorists, they don’t understand that there are aggressive and marginal youth out there.” He adds that there are a lot of people in his country who continue to defecate in holes in the ground. And that he could never buy a cup of coffee like the one he enjoys this Thursday in the middle of the morning as a new habit.
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