Russia's Foreign Ministry on Thursday issued its most definitive and biting criticisms of the unfolding crisis just its its south, in the large former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, which it should be remembered is the size of Europe in terms of land mass.
Echoing statements this week from embattled strongman Kazakh president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who has labeled the raging and increasingly violent fuel price hike protests and riots as "terroristic" in nature and inspired by "outside" forces, Russia has described a "foreign-inspired attempt to use armed and trained groups of people" to overthrow the legitimate government.
"We consider the recent events in a friendly country to be a foreign-inspired attempt to use armed and trained groups of people forcibly to undermine the security and integrity of the state", Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.
"She stressed that Russia is interested in reinstating the status quo in Kazakhstan, and will assist Kazakh authorities in stopping the violence," Russian media further cited her as saying.
Earlier in the day relatively small deployments of Russian paratroopers were filmed boarding military transport aircraft. This after the regional Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) alliance authorized a peace-keeping force on the ground. As we noted previously, there's nothing so far to suggest that the Kremlin is deploying a very large force - also as it likely has its eyes still focused on the Ukraine crisis 2.0 and NATO eastward expansion.
Kazakhstan is more than four times the size of Ukraine. Math problem of the day: if it takes more than 100 000 soldiers to invade Ukraine, how many will it take to occupy Kazakhstan? #BurdenOfEmpire https://t.co/vujpqg2mQ1— François Heisbourg (@FHeisbourg) January 6, 2022
A number of Western observers have noted the unlikelihood of Russia getting too bogged down the Kazakhstan situation. Given the expanse of the protests and unrest, any significant deployment and crackdown against the rioting would require a huge military and logistical effort.
Meanwhile, dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries - and also thousands of arrests - are being reported in the latest:
"The interior ministry said 2,000 people were arrested on Thursday, while the police spokesperson Saltanat Azirbek told state news channel Khabar-24 that "dozens of attackers were liquidated". There were also reports of about 400 people in hospital. City officials in Almaty said 353 police officers had been injured and 12 killed, one of whom they claimed had been found beheaded."
In particular the country's largest city of Almaty is now scene of running gun battles in the streets between security forces and apparently armed groups.
Wow, wow. The statue to Kazakhstan’s first president and until a few hours ago head of the Security Council Nazarbayev is seemingly down in Almaty region. pic.twitter.com/aetzwdNQqf— Bakhti Nishanov (@b_nishanov) January 5, 2022
It's the rapidity of the unknown rioters being able to in some instances overrun police stations that's causing some to question whether this is a more deeply organized effort than previously thought, since protests started last Saturday.
According to The Daily Mail, citing state sources, "Officials have said more than 1,000 people had been wounded so far in the unrest, with nearly 400 hospitalised and 62 in intensive care."
4/The protests seemed coordinated,well-organized. To me,as a non expert on KZ,this looks like a combination of factors – intra-elite showdown + some foreign invlvment.If you believe it’s purely local,take a look where the protests coordinated from,who “opposition leaders” are,etc— Maxim A. Suchkov (@m_suchkov) January 6, 2022
In some instances, media pundits and independent geopolitical observers have increasingly openly alleged a foreign intelligence hidden-hand behind the unrest.
Running gun battles in Almaty, Kazakhstan with "peaceful protesters" ie violent insurrectionists who quickly hijacked legit social protests as cover for a well-organized coup attempt, likely with some degree of foreign direction, organization and funding. https://t.co/BSVt8mmBgN— Mark Sleboda (@MarkSleboda1) January 6, 2022
#Kazakhstan: Captured armsfrom the National Security Committee (equivalent to Russian FSB) building by protestors in #Almaty:At least 2 PG-7V projectiles, possible boxed Glock pistol & (possibly) more in numerous scattered crates, various kit.— Cᴀʟɪʙʀᴇ Oʙsᴄᴜʀᴀ ❄ (@CalibreObscura) January 5, 2022
Anti-Armour capability in 48hrs... pic.twitter.com/6JhnIP4eT8
And another theory that's emerged, though it remains to be seen or proven with evidence the degree to which there could be foreign elements involved in ratcheting the intensity of what started as fuel protests...
What is happening in Kazakhstan is an attempt by Western special services to strategically weaken Russia so that Moscow will have to contend with two exceedingly dangerous fronts on its borders; namely, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. #Kazakhstan— Dr Marcus Papadopoulos (@DrMarcusP) January 5, 2022