Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who is the current chair of the Collective Security Treaty Organization—the CSTO—on Monday called a virtual summit of the group’s member-states, during which he provided rationalizations for the Russia-led security organization’s involvement in the growing unrest in Kazakhstan.
Pashinyan, who dispatched 100 Armenian soldiers to Kazakhstan on Friday, told the virtual gathering of the group’s leaders that reports that international terrorists allegedly are involved in the public upheaval in Kazakhstan causes “concern and worry.”
The reports that international terrorists are involved in Kazakhstan causes “concern and worry”, the Pashinyan said at the CSTO summit without providing proof.
“We continue to face new types of threats,” Pashinyan said. “The current situation in Kazakhstan causes special worry and concern given reports we’ve received on the involvement of international terrorists. In the not-so-distant past we ourselves faced the problem of foreign terrorists in our region,” Pashinyan said, referring to the involvement of Turkish-financed jihadists in the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh war.
Yet during the war and later in May, when Azerbaijani forces breached Armenia’s sovereign borders and advanced their positions in the Gegharkunik and Syunik provinces, Yerevan appealed the CSTO for intervention only to be rejected—twice. The presence of foreign terrorists was confirmed by France, the United States and Russia at the time of the 44-Day war. Furthermore, Kazakhstan leaders overtly congratulated Azerbaijan after last year’s war.
Pashinyan expressed hope that the CSTO efforts will contribute to swiftly restoring normal life in Kazakhstan.
He said that the strengthening of the rapid response mechanisms in crisis situations is among the key priorities of the CSTO. In this context Pashinyan said that he anticipates CSTO member states to enhance joint efforts to improve these mechanisms.
Recapping the results of the CSTO session, Pashinyan underscored that there is a high-level mutual understanding regarding the situation in Kazakhstan. He reiterated that the CSTO’s actions are aimed at a swift stabilization of the situation in Kazakhstan and return to normal life.
Proposed rate hikes for natural gas promoted demonstrations in Kazakhstan, with protesters hitting the streets beginning on January 2. The events violently escalated when protesters began burning government buildings and seizing important infrastructures, such as the airport in Almaty, the country’s largest city.
Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Wednesday called on the CSTO to intervene. This verbal appeal received a swift response on Thursday, when Russia committed troops to Kazakhstan.
The CSTO showed its potential and ability to act swiftly, the Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said at the CSTO summit on Monday.
“Our organization showed in practice its potential and ability to act swiftly, decisively and effectively. Each of the allies had their contribution in the composition of the CSTO military contingent for the implementation of the objectives,” Putin told his fellow leaders.
CSTO’s Secretary-General Stansilav Zas echoed Putin’s convictions and told the summit that the organization’s peacekeeping forces in Kazakhstan were carrying out their mission completely.
“All necessary measures are being taken today,” Zas said at the CSTO emergency session.
“Yesterday I spoke with the Commander of the CSTO peacekeeping forces in Kazakhstan, Russian Airborne Troops Commander Colonel-General Andrey Serdyukov. According to his report, today there are no issues requiring solutions on the level of the heads of state. I was very happy to hear that all everyday issues are being jointly regulated on the ground. It was said like this ‘we live and fulfill our mission as a family,’” Zas said.
Zas acknowledged that the CSTO mission to Kazakhstan is the organization’s first such action, which will require future analysis and conclusions.
“We will draw conclusions, learn lessons, but today we can already make the most important conclusion – the potential and mechanism of peacekeeping which is created in our organization is really working and is capable of fulfilling its mission,” Zas told the virtual gathering of CSTO leaders. He is scheduled to visit Kazakhstan on Tuesday.
Tokayev, the Kazakh president, claimed that terror groups took advantage of the protests in his country and are trying to seize power.
He said that his country went through a difficult large-scale crisis in the beginning of January, which became the most difficult one in the history of Kazakhstan. He claimed that those behind the deadly events had been preparing to strike for a long time.
“Demonstrations took place, whose participants brought forward social-economic and public-political demands, and all of these demands were heard and implemented by the government,” Tokayev said. “However, terrorists sought to seize power.”
“The situation escalated and armed militants who were waiting for the right moment to strike began to act. Their main goal became obvious – the overthrow of constitutional order, collapse of government institutions and seizure of power. This is an attempted coup d’état,” Tokayev alleged.
The Kazakh president explained that the so-called “terrorist groups” have mainly targeted Almaty, “and if the city were to fall it would’ve led to the capture of the entire country.” He, too, failed to provide proof corroborating the presence of terrorist groups.
Tokayev, who thanked Pashinyan for his leadership and understanding, called for the strengthening of what he called the CSTO’s potential and proposed to raise the response efficiency of the group during crisis situations.
In a televised interview on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced Toqaev’s “shoot to kill” order issued to security forces. Blinken also said Washington is seeking clarification on why the Central Asian nation needed to call in the Russian-led security force.
Pashinyan’s decision to send Armenian troops to Kazakhstan was criticized by opposition groups and civil society members, some of whom in an announcement issued on Friday voiced concern about the violent suppression of what they see as legitimate protests against Kazakhstan’s authoritarian government.
The main parliamentary opposition Armenia Alliance alliance said on Saturday that Yerevan should have supported the Russian-led intervention in Kazakhstan without committing any troops.
Gegham Nazarian, an Armenia Alliance member, said that the Armenian soldiers were flown to the Almaty area “at a time when we ourselves have problems with border security and have not yet overcome the post-war shock.”
“And most importantly, we must not forget that Kazakhstan was among those countries that openly voiced support for Azerbaijan during the  war,” Nazarian told Azatutyun.am’s Armenian Service. “It also congratulated Azerbaijan on its so-called victory.”
On Monday, the Armenia Alliance demanded that the parliament committees on defense and foreign relations hold a joint meeting on the Armenian deployment to Kazakhstan. The pro-government lawmakers heading the committees did not immediately respond to the demand.