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Russian and Central Asian forces arrive in Kazakhstan to secure important state and military facilities

Armenian peacekeepers leaving for Kazakhstan (Image courtesy: Ministry of Defence, Armenia)

Russia has formed an air group of more than 70 IL-76 and 5 AN-124 planes to transfer its military contingents, as well as peacekeepers drawn from the Central Asia, to quell unprecedented unrest in neighbouring Kazakhstan.

The Russian Ministry of Defence said that as many as 12 of its military transport aircraft IL-76 and AN-124 flew from the Chkalovsky airfield near Moscow for "prompt delivery of servicemen and airborne forces" to the airfields of Almaty and Zhetygen in Kazakhstan.

As the subdivisions from the Russian peacekeeping contingent begun to carry out their "assigned tasks", Russia said that it has been "from the very beginning" closely monitoring the rapidly deteriorating internal political situation and surge of violence in Kazakhstan.

"We consider recent developments in this friendly country, with which Russia has relations of strategic partnership and alliance, nothing but an externally provoked attempts to disrupt the security and integrity of the state, including by using the trained and organized armed groups," said the Russian Embassy in New Delhi late Friday evening.

Russia stated that it should be "clearly understood" that the main task of  forces belonging to the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) comes solely to securing important state and military facilities, as well as rendering assistance to the local authorities in stabilising the situation and getting it back to the legal framework.

"They do not participate in any military actions and are not involved in elimination of terrorists, which are being taken care of by the Kazakh law enforcement forces. Thus, one should not confuse a peacekeeping mission with the deployment of a combat units," said the statement

Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has launched a large-scale operation to repulse "foreign terrorists" after protests triggered initially by a fuel price hike turned violent all over the country.  

While declaring a two-week emergency, Tokayev had said that criminal elements had captured important  infrastructure buildings and even damaged several planes and the airport in Almaty, country's largest city.

Acting immediately on the Kazakh President's request for help to overcome this "external terrorist threat", the Collective Security Council of the Russia-led CSTO grouping had decided on Thursday to send its peacekeepers to Kazakhstan "for a limited period of time" to stabilise the situation.

The advanced units of Russia's Airborne Troops were the first to land in Kazakhstan on Friday, followed by 100 Armenian peacekeepers and units of the armed forces from other CSTO member countries, including Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

"During the mission, the peacekeeping unit of the RA Armed Forces will carry out functions of protection of exclusively strategic buildings and infrastructures," said the Armenian Ministry of Defence on Friday.

Belarus has sent the trained peacekeeping company from its 103rd airborne Vitebsk brigade of special operations forces.

"Tonight, this unit made a march to the Machulishchi airfield, where it was loaded onto aircraft of the Russian Federation. At the moment, we are moving to the place where the tasks will be performed," said Lieutenant General Viktor Khrenin, the Minister of Defence of Belarus.

The CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas, meanwhile, had a busy day, having telephone conversations with the heads of the states from the region to discuss the situation in Kazakhstan and ensure effective implementation of the decision to send the peacekeeping forces.

"The main tasks of the CSTO Collective Peacekeeping Forces are to protect important state and military facilities, assist the law enforcement forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan in stabilizing the situation and returning it to the legal field," said Zas after speaking with Tokayev and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.

The Kazakhstan President had started Friday by chairing a meeting of the country's counter-terrorism committee at his residence at 7 AM.

"The meeting discussed the operational situation in the country, the course of the anti-terrorist operation, the situation in the regions," said Tokayev's office.

Later in the day, during a televised address to the nation, the Kazakh President said that as "terrorists continue to damage state and private property and use weapons against citizens", he had ordered the law enforcement agencies and the army "to open fire to kill without warning".

"We had to deal with armed and trained bandits, both local and foreign. It is with bandits and terrorists. Therefore, they need to be destroyed. And this will be done shortly," said Tokayev.

The leader revealed that Almaty alone was "attacked by 20 thousand bandits" and their actions showed the presence of a clear plan of attacks on military, administrative and social facilities in almost all areas, "well-coordinated coordination of actions, high combat readiness and bestial cruelty".

Also Read: Facing large-scale unrest, Kazakhstan launches counter-terrorist operation