Kazakhstan (MNN) — Life edges closer to normal in Kazakhstan’s largest city, following the country’s worst unrest in 30 years. Speaking to Parliament yesterday, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said Russian peacekeeping troops would begin their departure tomorrow.
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin set no firm deadline for troop withdrawal, raising concern that the 2,000 Russian troops could stay in Kazakhstan indefinitely. Troops sent to the breakaway regions of Moldova and Abkhazia remain there three decades later.
“Russia wants to be a major player in that part of the world; they certainly want to exert influence over their neighbors. That is part of the reason they got involved, but also the president of Kazakhstan invited outside troops to come in,” Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs USA says.
What happened in Kazakhstan?
Protests against increased fuel prices quickly became violent last week. On Friday, Tokayev ordered security forces to “shoot to kill without warning” to squash the unrest. Weekend clashes between security forces and protestors killed at least 164 people, including three children.
Putin claimed victory in defending Kazakhstan from what he described as a foreign-backed terrorist uprising. Tokayev said he overcame a coup attempt, though neither leader offered evidence for these claims.
The unrest injured more than 2,000 people and led to nearly 8,000 arrests. Russian forces may have restored order, but tension bubbles below the surface. Analysts say the president’s request for Russian help may have been a fatal one, politically speaking.
“There is a very strong nationalist feeling within Kazakhstan; this could be seen as a weakness by the president to invite outsiders in,” Nettleton says.
No matter what happens next, he continues, the outcome will change little for persecuted Kazakh Christians. Learn more about persecution in Kazakhstan here.
“Most of the persecution that we hear about in Kazakhstan doesn’t come from the government. It comes from a person’s family members, especially someone who came from a Muslim background,” Nettleton says.
Pray believers can share the hope and peace of Christ with their neighbors during these tense times.
“Pray they (believers) will have opportunities to speak into people’s hearts – ‘yes, a lot is going on around us; we don’t know what’s going to happen, but we have peace because we know Jesus.’”
Header image courtesy of The Voice of the Martyrs USA.