EXPLAINER - Kazakhstan seeks Russia's support for its security group

MOSCOW (AP), -- Kazakhstan's president turned to a Russia-dominated alliance of security experts for help in the face of growing domestic unrest.

EXPLAINER - Kazakhstan seeks Russia's support for its security group

Within hours, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (or CSTO) announced that it was ready to assist the request for assistance. On Thursday, planeloads carrying elite Russian airborne units flew into Kazakhstan. Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Shukhrat Nuryshev stated that 2,500 CSTO peacekeepers will be deployed.

This is the first active operation in which the CSTO was involved.

What is the CSTO?

In the second half of 1990, the Soviet Union collapsed and the Collective Security Treaty Organization was created. It includes Russia as well as Armenia, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan.

The bloc's purpose has been unclear despite its name. Security analysts have questioned the viability of the bloc's ability to resolve security crises among its members throughout its history. Two members, Kyrgyzstan (Tajikistan) and Tajikistan, engaged in a bloody and messy border dispute last spring. The CSTO remained silent.

Instead, the bloc has shifted its focus to enhancing readiness for possible spillover from Afghanistan. This country shares a long border and borders with Tajikistan. Russia has approximately 7,000 troops in Afghanistan.

WHY WAS KAZAKHSTAN SUPPORTED CSTO SOMON?

To justify his request for outside military assistance, the Kazakh President Kassym Jomart Tokayev said Wednesday night on television that the unrest was being caused by "international terrorist organizations." This was significant because the CSTO was ostensibly created to protect member countries from aggression. However, it is not clear who outside groups are allegedly behind the troubles in Kazakhstan.

At the beginning of the week, peaceful protests against the sudden rise in fuel prices triggered the current crisis. Large rallies started to form across the country. Violence broke out in Almaty (the country's capital), as reports surfaced that some areas were not being suppressed by law enforcement, which is the norm in Kazakhstan. It is possible that Tokayev was becoming nervous about his security system's loyalty.

WHAT IS THE CSTO MISSION?

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, its troops will be flown into Kazakhstan by 70 Il-76 heavy transport aircraft and five An-124 heavy-transport aircraft. Russian military transports will also be used to bring in troops from Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Russia's component is being drawn mainly from units of the army specifically trained for rapid response operations, such as the 45th Guards Special Purpose Brigade, the 98th Guards Airborne Division, and the 31st Separate Guards Order. Ukrainian armed forces captured a group of soldiers from the 98th Guards Airborne Division while they were involved in military operations in eastern Ukraine. Russia claimed that they crossed the border accidentally.

Andrei Serdyukov (59), will lead the mission in Kazakhstan.

HOW DO KAZAKHS VIEW CSTO INVOLVEMENT?

Kazakhs will feel deeply conflicted when they see Russian troops on the streets of their country. Kazakhstan is a loyal ally of Moscow, and their feelings towards Russia are generally positive.

However, there is intense concern about Russia's past aggressive behavior towards its neighbours. When it annexed Crimea in 2014, the Kremlin mentioned alleged concerns about the oppression faced by ethnic Russians in Ukraine. Kazakhstan, whose lands are occupied by the Russian Empire in the 19th century, has a large Russian-speaking population in its northern regions. Nationalist politicians in Moscow regularly talk about the need for intervention on their behalf.

Stanislav Zas, CSTO Secretary General, laughed at claims that the bloc's troops had been used as a cover to impose Russian authority on Kazakhstan. He said, "There's been some gibberish around how this is an invasion or something." "I'm sorry, but this is completely stupid."

Tokayev will still be questioned by his people about whether his willingness to accept foreign troops hasn't diluted Kazakhstani sovereignty. Whether it was an invasion or not, the damage is done.

HOW LONG WILL CSTO TROOPS STAY IN OFFICE?

Zas said to RIA Novosti that it could take as long as it takes. This could take days, or even weeks. Officially, Kazakhstan must only say that the troops of CSTO will depart.

Russian troops are already stationed at Almaty's airport, the site of the worst unrest. While Nuryshev (the deputy foreign minister) stated that approximately 2,500 CSTO soldiers are currently deployed in Kazakhstan, Russian media reported that 3,000 troops were being deployed by Russia's mission.

The government of Kazakhstan stated Friday that constitutional order had been restored throughout the country. However, there were still disturbances in Almaty.

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