‘Say no to Putin’: Ukrainians support protests in Kazakhstan | News

Kiev, Ukraine – With their country’s fate being discussed in this week’s US-Russian talks, Ukrainians took to the streets this weekend to defend their independence and another cause – that of the protests in Kazakhstan.

On Sunday, demonstrators in Kiev and Kharkov, Ukraine’s second largest city, held up signs reading “Say no to Putin” and waved Kazakh flags alongside Ukrainian flags.

The blue and gold flag of Kazakhstan also appeared in the winter skies of Kiev on Saturday, flown from a drone during an act of protest organized by Dronarium, a community of unmanned aerial vehicle enthusiasts known for its political statements.

“Every nation has the right to protect its socio-economic and political rights through peaceful protests,” said drone operator Vitaly Shevchuk. “We condemn violence in all its forms, but we also oppose foreign military intervention in Kazakhstan under the guise of a peacekeeping operation, which looks more like punitive action and risks becoming an occupation.

After a week of violent protests that started amid rising fuel prices and quickly spread across the country – leaving at least 164 dead, 2,000 injured and nearly 6,000 arrested – a military alliance led by the Russia has now returned control of Kazakhstan to the government.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CTSC), an alliance of several former Soviet states, has deployed around 2,500 troops to Kazakhstan to help quell the protest, including Russian paratroopers guarding “vital facilities and social infrastructure. “, according to a statement from the Russian Defense Ministry.

Critics have accused Russia of “occupation” for its involvement, with Kazakh Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former minister turned opposition leader, warning that President Vladimir Putin will drag the country into “a structure like the Soviet Union” unless the West intervenes.

More motivated by their own hopes to challenge Putin than by sharing a common cause with the protests, Ukrainians have also called for resistance.

“The dictator [Putin] wants to rebuild the USSR by force, ”said Olga Angelova, who was among the demonstrators in Kiev.

“It must be stopped – we Ukrainians will resist the occupiers. We call on the West not to accept Putin’s ultimatum, ”she said, referring to this week’s talks on a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The blue and gold flag of Kazakhstan flies in the winter skies of Kiev as protesters show solidarity with those in the Central Asian nation [Courtesy: Dronarium]

The commander of the CSTO in Kazakhstan is headed by Commander Andrey Serdyukov, which prompts further speculation about the occupation of the Ukrainians – the Colonel-General previously led troops in Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014, and the Donbas, which is held by Russian-backed separatists.

As U.S. and Russian diplomats meet this week, with talks in Geneva and Brussels starting on Monday, the negotiations could become a watershed moment in the history of NATO-Russia relations.

Ukraine, however, will be absent from two of the three negotiating sessions, which has caused the chorus “No decisions on Ukraine without Ukraine” to be widely used, including by Dmytro Kuleba, the former minister. Ukrainian Foreign Minister.

The current threat comes after eight years of low-intensity conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke last week of “diplomacy and de-escalation,” but on Sunday Washington played down expectations of a breakthrough in the talks and Russia said it would not make concessions under American pressure.

Experts are divided over how the unrest in Kazakhstan might affect Putin’s stance on Ukraine – whether that would avoid pressure with his now divided attention, or embolden him and make him less willing to compromise.

“Putin is likely to be smart and seek a big win over Ukraine to distract himself from his humiliation in Kazakhstan,” said Timothy Ash, senior strategist at BlueBay Asset Management.

“[US President Joe] Biden will likely view the situation in Kazakhstan as a weakening of Putin – the United States will assess the situation as making it less likely that Putin risks a crisis on two fronts. Biden is therefore also less likely to compromise.

“This makes the situation in Ukraine more, not less dangerous.”

The United States warned for weeks that Russia had stationed masses of troops near Ukraine with the possible intention of staging a new invasion.

It is not believed that there has been any significant movement in recent weeks and a withdrawal of 10,000 troops was reported in late December, but the remaining troops are in positions where they could potentially strike parts of the country.

As a result, the United States and Ukraine have expanded their cooperation on intelligence and security matters.

If Moscow takes military action, officials in Washington are preparing unprecedented sanctions and have attempted to garner support from European allies in the form of similar measures.

The New York Times said the sanctions would likely be aimed at “cutting off Russia’s largest financial institutions that depend on global financial transfers” as part of a “high-impact rapid response” that was not continued in 2014.

For negotiations to be successful, there must be compromises.

Russia has offered an ultimatum in return for easing tensions with Ukraine – which Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO – but this has already been rejected by the United States and NATO.

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