The Russian embassy in India recently took to social media to slam the country’s media over its coverage of the Ukraine crisis and the Kazakhstan situation. The embassy accused the Indian media of painting a distorted picture of the situation in both these countries.
Kazakhstan is one of the five Central Asian Republics that gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is a large country that covers territory the size of Western Europe and has huge reserves of oil, natural gas, uranium, and precious metals.
Kazakhstan’s natural resources have helped it establish a strong middle class, as well as a significant number of ultra-rich tycoons. Despite this, financial hardship is quite prominent in the country, with the average national monthly income being just a little under $600. The banking system is in a crisis, courtesy of non-performing loans, and petty corruption in the nation is widespread.
The current crisis is rooted in the protests against a hike in fuel prices that began on January 2 over a hike in fuel prices in western provincial areas. However, the protests, powered by long-standing public grievances regarding inequality and corruption, quickly spread throughout the country, further-reaching large cities.
This included Almaty where riots erupted as protestors clashed with the police and set government buildings ablaze. Following this, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who blamed the unrest on “bandits and terrorists”, allowed the use of lethal force, issuing shoot-to-kill orders to restore law and order.
Official records state that over 160 people were killed and 5,000 arrested in the worst incidence of violence since Kazakhstan’s independence. Local media reported that the interior ministry said that early estimates put the value of property damage at around 175 million Euros.
Over 100 businesses and banks were attacked and looted and nearly 400 vehicles were destroyed, the ministry added.
President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Kemelevich Tokayev also invited the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) to send troops to restore order in the country.
The alliance complied with the request and sent 2,500 troops over. Speaking to Kazakhstan’s Khabar 24 television that same day, Dauren Abayev, deputy head of the country’s Presidential Administration, said CSTO troops had been dispatched to protect government buildings and would not be directly involved in operations against protesters.
However, the dispatch of these troops has sparked fears that Moscow could take this opportunity to strengthen its influence over Kazakhstan, which has so far tried to maintain a careful balance between Russia and the West.
The coverage of the situation in Kazakhstan so far has proven to be bad optics for Russia. The country even raised the issue of allegedly distorted coverage by the Indian media through its embassy in New Delhi.
Moscow’s Claim Of External Hand
On Friday, January 7, the official Twitter handle of the Russian Embassy in India tweeted a link containing “some important facts” that they believe had slipped the Indian media’s attention in their coverage of the developments in Kazakhstan.
We noted some publications in the Indian press on developments in Kazakhstan & #Russia’s involvement in the joint CSTO peacekeeping operation there, & would like to elaborate on some important facts that have obviously slipped from the media’s attention ➡️ https://t.co/LG0NvIIJGJ pic.twitter.com/pIkP0fteUM
— Russia in India 🇷🇺 (@RusEmbIndia) January 7, 2022
In the statement attached in the tweet, the embassy said that Russia had been “closely monitoring the rapidly deteriorating internal political situation” and the rise in violence in Kazakhstan from the beginning.
It further called Kazakhstan a “friendly country” that Russia has a strategic partnership with and noted that Moscow considers recent developments in this Central Asian Republic an externally provoked attempt to damage the security and integrity of the state. It claimed that this external provocation included the use of “trained and organized armed groups”.
It said that Russia only supported the decision of sending peacekeeping forces to Kazakhstan which was taken by the Collective Security Council after President Tokayev requested assistance.
Moscow’s support of this decision, the statement said, was in line with its commitments to the CSTO. “More to say, deployment of the CSTO peacekeeping forces is only possible when an agreement is reached between all member states. And this is exactly the case,” it further read.
The embassy also clarified that the peacekeeping forces that were temporarily sent to Kazakhstan on January 6 consisted of contingents from Armenia, Belorussia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan in addition to forces from Russia.
The statement said that the sole task of the forces sent to the country was to secure “important state and military facilities, as well as rendering assistance to the local authorities in stabilizing the situation and getting it back to the legal framework.”
It went on to note that the forces do not take part in any military actions and are not involved in the elimination of terrorists. Those things are being taken care of by the Kazakh law enforcement forces. In a pointed comment, it said that the peacekeeping mission should not be confused with the deployment of combat units.
Two days after this statement came out, the Russian embassy in India once again took to social media, posting from the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Facebook account this time to call out the Indian media on their coverage of the Ukraine crisis.
The post’s first paragraph read: With deep regret, we noted that some #Indian media have once again attempted to impose the distorted picture on the situation around the internal Ukrainian crisis and to turn upside down #Russia’s approaches on the matter, including by disseminating outrageous statements by the #Ukraine’s officials.
The embassy emphasized that Russia does not threaten anyone and is showing maximum restraint in handling the crisis. Its post said that Moscow has no intention to fight the “fraternal Ukrainian people” or to promote any military solution to the issue.
It alleged that the Ukrainian army has been in a state of war for 8 years against its own people. In 2021 alone, the Ukrainian defense forces had violated the ceasefire 1,923 times, and used over 4,000 mines and artillery shells of different calibers causing multiple civilian casualties and “damaging residential buildings and infrastructure facilities.”
The statement in the post also accused US and other NATO countries of openly supporting Kyiv’s militaristic aspirations by supplying weapons to them and sending military specialists there. The embassy alleged that Washington had spent over $2.5 billion on the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces since 2014.
“NATO member states are systematically transforming Ukraine into a military foothold against Russia, building their bases and using its territory for military exercises,” the post said.
In what is seen as an attack on the media, the embassy said it was “completely ridiculous” that accusations were being made against Moscow, stating that it is concentrating the defense forces near its borders and is readying itself for some kind of combat action.
The embassy stressed that the path of confrontation is not Russia’s choice, but is rather left up to its partners.