EU ministers to consider measures over Kazakh crackdown

French minister for European affairs Clement Beaune speaks to journalists as he arrives at a General Affairs meeting in Luxembourg, 22 June 2021. [Pool/EPA/EFE]

EU foreign ministers will this week discuss possible measures to respond to the crackdown against anti-government protests in Kazakhstan over the past week, a French minister said on Sunday (9 January).

“(They will discuss) measures which Europe could take to send a message: that you cannot crush a people, protesters, rebelling against the cost of living,” European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune told CNEWS.

Kazakhstan’s authorities said on Sunday the situation was stabilising after the worst political unrest in 30 years of independence, and that troops from a Russian-led military alliance were guarding key facilities.

France holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU and is hosting an informal ministerial meeting of the EU foreign and defence ministers in Brest on 13 and 14 January.

Le leadership in Nursultan and the EU differ on the analysis of the Kazakhstan crisis.

A total of 7,939 people have been detained and public buildings torched during mass anti-government protests in the past week. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev issued shoot-to-kill orders to end the unrest. The violence has spurred speculation of a rift in the ruling elite, with Tokayev fighting to consolidate his authority after firing key officials and removing Nazarbayev from a powerful role as head of the Security Council. The president’s website announced the sackings of various high-level officials.

The foreign ministry of Kazakhstan blamed “certain foreign media” for portraying the police violence as aimed against the peaceful protesters, who took the streets because of the hike of gas fuel prices.

“Peaceful rallies were held in Mangystau region and in all major cities of the country. The protesters’ demands were fully met. However, the peaceful protests were hijacked by terrorist, extremist and criminal groups to escalate tensions and violence. In this respect, a state of emergency was declared in the country”, the foreign ministry says in a statement circulated on Sunday.

The Kazakh authorities blame for the unrest terrorists trained abroad, although they don’t say who they are, from where they have come and who is financing them.

“Kazakhstan has been subjected to armed aggression by well-coordinated terrorist groups trained abroad. According to preliminary data, the attackers include individuals who have military combat zone experience in the ranks of radical Islamist groups. Currently, the law enforcement agencies and armed forces of Kazakhstan are confronting terrorists, not “peaceful protesters” as some foreign media misrepresent it”, the ministry states.

Reportedly, the Kazakh law enforcement agencies have been instructed to conduct a large-scale investigation of the causes of the current situation. It is said that their results would be presented to the international community.

Kazakhstan also stresses that it is in control of the situation and the troops form the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) are on its territory on a temporary basis.

Russia sends military to Kazakhstan to quell anti-government uprising

On Thursday, Russia sent paratroopers into Kazakhstan to quell a countrywide uprising after deadly violence spread across the tightly controlled former Soviet state.

“It is important to note that the main combat operations against terrorist groups are conducted by the law enforcement agencies and armed forces of Kazakhstan. The CSTO peacekeeping force will be stationed in Kazakhstan on a strictly temporary basis and will leave the country as soon as the situation stabilizes at the first request of the Kazakh side”, the Kazakh authorities stress.

Russian and state media reported 164 people were killed during the clashes, citing a government social media post. 10 January 2022 is declared a day of national mourning in the country.

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