YEREVAN — Armenia announced early on Thursday that the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) will send troops to Kazakhstan to help its government quell violent protests sparked by a fuel price hike. The CSTO includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Kazakhstan’s President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev declared a nationwide state of emergency on Wednesday as thousands of anti-government protesters clashed with police and stormed government buildings in the oil-rich Central Asian nation for the third consecutive day.
Angry demonstrators, some of whom were armed with rubber truncheons, sticks, and shields, set fire to a presidential residence and the mayor’s office in the country’s largest city, Almaty,
Police engaged in pitched battles with the protesters, using tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets to try to disperse the crowds, but were largely unsuccessful. Kazakhstan’s Interior Ministry said eight police and National Guard troops have been killed and 317 people wounded during the unprecedented unrest.
Toqaev said that he has appealed to the CSTO to assist his government in responding to what he called a “terrorist threat.”
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, whose country is the current holder of the CSTO’s rotating presidency, spoke with Toqaev by phone and announced shortly after midnight that he will also hold “consultations” with the leaders of CSTO members.
In a statement issued about two hours later, Pashinyan said they have decided to dispatch “collective peacekeeping forces” to Kazakhstan. Pashinyan said the force would deploy to Kazakhstan for a “limited period,” with the goal of “stabilizing and normalizing the situation in the country.”
Pashinyan did not specify the number and composition of CSTO troops that will be deployed in Kazakhstan. Nor did he say whether Armenian soldiers will also join the contingent.
Russia did not immediately comment on the deployment.