15:11 GMT +321 February 2019
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    CSTO peacekeepers in Central Asia to number up to 5,000

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    SOLNECHNOGORSK (Moscow Region), November 16 (RIA Novosti) - A peacekeeping contingent deployed by members of a regional security bloc in Central Asia will total up to 5,000 men, the bloc's senior official said on Friday.

    The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Leaders of CSTO member states agreed to form

    a Collective Peacekeeping Force during a summit in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, in October.

    "The total number of personnel in the [CSTO] peacekeeping contingent is planned at between 4,000 and 5,000 men," Valery Semerikov, CSTO deputy secretary general, said at a CSTO expert-level meeting on the peacekeeping contingent.

    CSTO members use the organization as a platform to fight terrorism and organized crime, and have pledged to provide immediate military assistance to one another in the event of an attack.

    The bloc already has a smaller Collective Rapid Reaction Force deployed in Central Asia, and is continuing to build up its military forces, which some experts view as an attempt to counter-balance NATO's further eastward expansion.

    CSTO officials earlier said that the new contingent could be used to conduct peacekeeping operations anywhere in the world upon the request of governments or international organizations.

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