Russian president Vladimir Putin vowed that a Moscow-led security bloc would protect its allies from “colour revolutions” in its neighbourhood after sending troops to quell unrest in Kazakhstan last week.
He said that the Russia-led forces were securing key infrastructure to “normalise the situation” and help “restore order to the country”.
Putin’s remarks, his first public comments since the unrest began, underscored Moscow’s willingness to back its allies in former Soviet states against street protests, which the Russian leader blamed on external meddling.
“Of course, we understand that the events in Kazakhstan aren’t the first and will be far from the last attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of our states,” Putin said.
He claimed that protesters had used “Maidan technologies”, a reference to a 2014 uprising that toppled a pro-Russian president in Ukraine, and cited other pro-democracy movements that ousted Moscow-aligned rulers in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan in the 2000s.
“We won’t let anyone destabilise the situation in our home and won’t allow the so-called colour revolution scenario to play out,” Putin said.
At least 164 people were killed, including three children, and almost 8,000 arrested in Kazakhstan, according to the country’s authorities.
The protests began as peaceful demonstrations against fuel price rises and the longtime rule of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the 81-year-old “father of the nation” and former president who stepped aside as head of Kazakhstan’s security council when the violence began.
The country has blamed the violence on “terrorists” it says number as many as 20,000, though it has provided little evidence to support this claim.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kazakhstan’s president, described the unrest as “an attempted coup d’état” co-ordinated by a “single centre”.
He said the peacekeeping mission from the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization bloc, which included 2,030 troops and 250 units of military equipment, would shortly end, and vowed to provide “additional evidence” of the “terrorist” involvement.
Putin praised Tokayev for his “bravery” and expressed confidence Kazakhstan would quickly “restore order”.
Putin claimed that “destructive internal and external forces” had taken advantage of the protests to deploy “well-organised groups of militants under their control” that had “obviously trained at terrorist camps abroad”. The protests prompted the Kazakh government to resign last week.
He said that unnamed foreign forces had used the internet and social media — which Kazakhstan shut off for extended periods last week — to create a pretext for “terrorist attacks” by organising the protests.
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