Troops of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) have completed their withdrawal from Kazakhstan, where they were invited by the Central Asian nation's government in the wake of deadly protests in the country's largest city, Almaty, in early January.
Russia's ambassador to Kazakhstan, Aleksei Borodavkin, and General Andrei Serdyukov, who led the CSTO mission in Kazakhstan, said on January 19 that the "peacekeeping operation" was over and that "all" troops had left the former Soviet republic.
Russian, Armenian, Kyrgyz, and Tajik troops were sent to Kazakhstan after small protests against a fuel-price increase in the remote town of Zhanaozen sparked mass anti-government protests across the oil-rich country and led to deadly clashes in Almaty and elsewhere.
Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev said at the time that "20,000 terrorists trained abroad" attacked Almaty, and invited troops from CSTO member states to the country to "stabilize" the situation.
Toqaev has not revealed any evidence of "terrorists" being in the country or of fomenting the protests.
Kazakh officials said that 227 people, including 19 law enforcement officers, were killed during the protests.
Human rights activists say the number of dead may be much higher as scores of people have been missing since the unrest.
On January 19, Almaty authorities beefed up security in the city, increasing the number of police in the streets, as exiled opposition politician Mukhtar Ablyazov called on Kazakh citizens to hold protest rallies on that day in Almaty and other towns and cities.