Russia prepares dozens of transport planes as troops flock to Kazakhstan

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Russian forces continued to flow into Kazakhstan on Sunday, deploying to help authorities regain control of the country’s largest cities after days of sometimes violent protests against its leaders.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had prepared a contingent of more than 75 transport planes to allow for a continued deployment of troops in the country. The number sent would likely be around 2,500, but could increase, Russian state news agency RIA said last week.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin was scheduled to hold talks with his Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Monday on the situation in Kazakhstan, the Kremlin said.

More than 160 people have died in the violence around the protests, including more than 100 in the country’s largest city, Almaty, Russian news agencies said, citing Kazakhstan’s health ministry.

Russian forces entered the country last week after Kazakh authorities requested help from a Moscow-led security bloc that includes several former Soviet republics. The Russians make up the vast majority of the deployment.

Russian parachute units “deployed to Almaty airfield and traveled in convoys to the destination of their mission …[and] moved to secure critical and civilian infrastructure, ”the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Protests first sparked by rising fuel prices in Kazakhstan have turned violent, prompting a Russian-led military coalition to send troops to the oil-rich country. The video shows government buildings and streets in several towns stormed by protesters. Photo: Mariya Gordeyeva / Reuters

The mission is the first for the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the former Soviet Union’s response to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and shows how Mr. Putin has succeeded in leveraging its military modernization over the past decade into a diplomatic tool to maintain its influence over the former Soviet space.

Other CSTO leaders will participate in Monday’s call between MM. Putin and Tokayev.

Russian troop movements in Kazakhstan have taken place as Moscow has also amassed some 100,000 other troops along the border with Ukraine in recent months.

US officials are expected to meet with their Russian counterparts from Monday in Geneva to try to defuse tensions over Ukraine. US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is due to organize a working dinner with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Sunday evening.

Mr. Putin said NATO’s eastward expansion and its military ties with Ukraine threaten Russian security. He called on NATO to cease contacts with countries he considers to be part of Russia’s traditional sphere of influence.

Russian troop movements to neighboring Kazakhstan have further increased tensions with the West.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the situation there was different from that of Ukraine, but added, referring to Russia’s previous unilateral troop deployments to other former Soviet republics: “Once the Russians are in your house sometimes it is very difficult to get them. leave.”

The spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, speaking on a popular talk show, responded to the remarks by calling them “baby talk” without any foundation.

Video footage released on Sunday by the Russian Defense Ministry showed troops loading armored personnel carriers and military transport vehicles onto planes in Moscow and landing at airfields near Almaty, where they are deployed or carried out tactical military exercises with their Kazakh counterparts at the airport, the defense ministry said.

After days of protests against fuel increases and declining living standards that turned into violent rallies and looting in some of Kazakhstan’s largest cities, Kazakh law enforcement arrested nearly 6,000 people across the country, Tokayev’s office RIA reported.

“Tokayev stressed that all necessary measures will be taken by the security services in order to restore order and security in the country,” the president’s office said.

What is happening in Kazakhstan?

Write to Thomas Grove at [email protected]

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