Russia Takes Control Of Almaty Airport Following Unrest

After a request for help with what he is calling ‘foreign-trained terrorists’, states that are part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization have sent forces to the aid of Kazakhstan’s President Tokayev. Russia confirmed on Friday that its troops had taken full control of Almaty International Airport. Meanwhile, others claim the protests in Kazakhstan are part of a plot to destabilize the broader region.

Russian PM arrives Kazakhstan
Russian troops have arrived in Kazakhstan and taken control of Almaty’s airport following a request for help from the country’s president. Pictured is the Russian prime minister’s arrival to Almaty earlier this week. Photo: Getty Images

‘Shoot without warning’ President says

Following civil unrest and a deteriorating security situation in the country, protesters seized the airport of Kazakhstan’s capital Almaty on January 5th. The country’s President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, has ordered security forces to ‘shoot without warning’ to quell the ongoing anti-government protests related to runaway fuel prices. The president claims the dissent is fuelled by ‘bandits’ and ‘foreign-trained’ terrorists, with whom he would refuse to negotiate.

Meanwhile, the situation at Almaty International Airport (ALA) has been brought under control by Russian military forces. The troops arrived on nine Ilyushin Il-76 planes. This was confirmed by Igor Konashenkov, spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry, on Friday morning.

“The Almaty airport has now been taken under full control in a joint effort with Kazakhstan Republic’s law enforcement agencies,” he told news agency TASS earlier today.

The troops flew in on nine Ilyushin Il-76 Russian Air Force aircraft. Photo: Schmidy87 via Wikimedia Commons

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Armenian troops also on the way

Russia’s intervention followed an appeal for help from Tokayev through the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

The arrival of Russian troops in Almaty marked the first joint action since the founding of the CSTO in 1999. Armenia also deployed soldiers to Kazakhstan from Yerevan’s Zvartnots Airport on Friday morning.

“We are talking about the collective peacekeeping forces of the CSTO. The decision was made collectively in response to the request of the legitimate authorities of Kazakhstan,” Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, informed the reporters of TASS on Thursday.

Air Astana, Kazakhstan, Almaty Airport
Several airlines, including flag carrier Air Astana, have halted operations in and out of Almaty. Photo: Getty Images

Moral support from Belarus

President Tokayev is receiving support in his ‘foreign influence’ narrative (more and more often used by Russia to crack down on human rights activism and NGOs) from the President of Belarus.

Alexandr Lukashenko, responsible for the forced landing of Ryanair flight FR4978 in Minsk in May last year in order to apprehend journalist Roman Protasevich, claimed the protests were part of a bigger plan to destabilize the neighborhood.

“Kazakhstan is an attempt to attack the post-Soviet states along the perimeter of Russia. They need to drown Russia in blood. I repeat once again: if Russia collapses, we have no idea where it will end,” the President, often referred to as Europe’s last dictator, told reporters on Friday. 

Airlines are cutting flights

Several airlines have suspended operations to Kazakhstan amid the unrest. Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways, flydubai, and Air Arabia have all canceled flights to Almaty. Aeroflot has followed suit, along with Belavia and Lufthansa. S7 has also suspended services to other cities in Kazakhstan over the coming two days.