CSTO Head: Current Events in Kazakhstan Threaten Its Security, Territorial Integrity
© REUTERS / COLLECTIVE SECURITY TREATY ORGANA military aircraft carrying Russian servicemen takes off from an airfield on its way to Kazakhstan, outside Moscow, Russia January 6, 2022, in this still image taken from video. Russian paratroopers have been deployed to Kazakhstan as part of a peacekeeping force that includes troops from four other former Soviet republics.
The Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Stanislav Zas, told Sputnik in an exclusive interview on Thursday how the CSTO peacekeeping mission in Kazakhstan will operate.
Sputnik: Stanislav Vasilievich, on what basis are the CSTO peacekeeping forces being brought into Kazakhstan?
Secretary General: The grounds for sending the Collective Peacekeeping Forces of the CSTO to the Republic of Kazakhstan are Articles 2 and 4 of the Collective Security Treaty, the Agreement on Peacekeeping Activities and, of course, the appeal of the President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Zhomart Kemelevich Tokayev for military assistance. This is what served as the basis for the decision by the heads of our states to conduct a peacekeeping operation. The second article of the collective security treaty states clearly and plain that in the event of a threat to the security, stability, territorial integrity and sovereignty of a state, the CSTO member states immediately hold consultations to coordinate their positions and take and implement measures to provide assistance to this state. This is what happened in this case in Kazakhstan. The events that are now taking place there pose a real threat to the country's security, stability and even territorial integrity. So, we have received an appeal, held emergency consultations of the heads of state and made an appropriate decision to use the peacekeeping potential of the CSTO in order to minimize and localize these threats there. This answers the question of what was the basis for the operation.
Sputnik: How long will the Collective Peacekeeping Forces of the CSTO be in Kazakhstan?
Secretary General: They have already begun redeployment, by the way. For how long? We expect that the period will be short. It sounds like 'for a short period' in the decision of the Collective Security Council. What kind of short period, for several days or several weeks, it will depend on the development of the situation in Kazakhstan and, of course, on the position of the Kazakh leadership. If it considers that the situation has stabilized and it is controlled by its own forces without the help of all our states, then, of course, the operation will end and all troops will be withdrawn.
Sputnik: Who is part of the Collective Peacekeeping Forces; what is their total number?
Secretary General: Routinely, all our [member] states with their divisions have expressed their readiness to participate [in the peacekeeping operation in Kazakhstan], and the transfer of forces has already begun. The advance team of the Russian part of the peacekeeping contingent is already in Kazakhstan and has begun fulfilling assigned tasks. In two or three hours, the first echelon of the Belarusian peacekeeping forces will be there. Gradually, I think, over the course of tomorrow [Friday], we will complete the redeployment of all our other peacekeeping units. The contingent of the collective peacekeeping force may differ in size. Currently, in accordance with the decisions that have been made, there are about 2,500 people. We will make further decisions based on the situation. We have the entire list of units, formations included in the CSTO Peacekeeping Forces, about 3,600 in total. Therefore, if necessary, we will strengthen the grouping in Kazakhstan.
Sputnik: What divisions are included in the CPF?
Secretary General: Different divisions, if we talk about all our [member] states. Basically, these are, of course, mobile units and divisions. The divisions are called differently - airborne troops, special operations forces, special forces. It's such a good backbone. In the CSTO, the Peacekeeping Forces [derived] from the armed forces of the member states include precisely such units that are in constant combat readiness. They are ready to complete the task without any preparation.
Sputnik: Is participation in the Peacekeeping Forces of Russia's CSTO allies significant or rather symbolic? There are different data on the size of the contingent, for example, the Armenian media reported that a unit of 70 people is participating from Armenia.
Secretary General: It is not about the number [of countries]. This gesture means the readiness to support Kazakhstan. All member-states to the CSTO supported [Kazakhstan]. This is important for us.
Sputnik: What is the geography of the CPF deployment? All key cities or only Almaty?
Secretary General: I can't talk about geography yet. This will depend on the decisions that will be made on the spot by the commander of this peacekeeping contingent in cooperation with the law enforcement and the Ministry of Defense of Kazakhstan, to decide where the efforts of our peacekeeping units are needed. Talking about the tasks assigned to them, they can be divided into two main ones. The first one is the protection of the most important government, strategic facilities. And the second one is providing assistance in maintaining public order so that people can feel safe. All insinuations that our units will allegedly disperse demonstrations are not true, it is not going to happen. Our CSTO Collective Peacekeeping Forces have other tasks. There have been speculations about some kind of invasion or something else, or even that an "occupation" was agreed, this, excuse me, is complete nonsense. To provide assistance and support to Kazakhstan in this difficult period is the main motive for the decision of the Collective Security Council. Once the situation stabilizes, another decision will be made and the peacekeeping mission will be completed. So, of course, it is very unpleasant to listen and read that “we took advantage of the situation,” as this is complete nonsense. I am repeating myself that the sincere desire of all our countries is to really help Kazakhstan in this difficult situation, to support our ally in this difficult time.
Sputnik: It is no secret that armed gangs are now active in Kazakhstan. If they attack a facility that the Peacekeeping Force is protecting, do the forces have the authority to use weapons in return?
Secretary General: Yes, in this case weapons will be used. The military personnel of the collective peacekeeping forces have this right.
Sputnik: Who is appointed as the commander of the peacekeeping force?
Secretary General: I do not want to get ahead of myself yet, because the appointment has not yet been formalized. The CSTO Council of Defense Ministers will decide on the appointment of the commander of the Collective Peacekeeping Forces. There is already a candidacy, but it has not yet been approved, so I don’t want to announce it either. The decision will be published later.
Sputnik: Could the dispatch of CSTO peacekeepers lead to a turning point in the republic?
Secretary General: The situation is difficult, but it is already possible to draw a cautious conclusion based on the events that took place [last] night and this afternoon [...] Some changes to the better are already evident. As a result, we hope this trend will strengthen.
Sputnik: Including with the help of the CSTO forces?
Secretary General: I would like to think that these are due to the help of the CSTO as well. Right now Kazakh security forces are managing [the situation]. It is hard for them, of course, so they need some help.