Moscow, 25 August 2021 (dpa/MIA) – Russia has upgraded its military base in the Central Asian country of Tajikistan in view of the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan.
The Russian army announced on Tuesday that several “Kornet” anti-tank systems had been brought into the ex-Soviet republic bordering Afghanistan. The system is designed to shoot enemy armoured vehicles and aerial targets.
Russia, which has its largest foreign military base in Tajikistan, has been eyeing the Taliban’s activities in Afghanistan with concern due to fears that Islamist fighters could invade former Soviet territory. Moscow has long been negotiating with the Taliban.
About a month ago, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the expansion of the Central Asian facilities. Russia recently took part in several military exercises with Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries.
Not far from the Afghan border, several thousand soldiers have been trained to ward off terrorists.
Later on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West of leaving chaos in Afghanistan as it withdraws from the country, and of creating a major terror threat for other countries.
“There is a danger that terrorists and various groups that have found refuge in Afghanistan will use the chaos left behind by our Western partners,” Putin said, adding that terrorists could cause the situation to escalate in neighbouring countries too.
“This is a direct threat to our allies and to our country,” Putin said, referring to countries neighbouring Afghanistan, such as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
He said drug smuggling and illegal migration might increase there, during comments at an event organized by the United Russia party ahead of the country’s September 19 elections.
“These are all threats to us. They are absolutely real.”
Putin has repeatedly warned that terrorists from Afghanistan could seek refuge abroad, while claiming asylum.
He has also pledged to prevent Russia from being drawn into the conflict again.
“The Soviet Union has had its experience of staying in this country. We have drawn the necessary conclusions from it.”
Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and thousands of Soviet soldiers died during the occupation that lasted until 1989.
Shoigu criticized the fact that the Taliban now has control of a “large number of weapons” belonging to NATO troops following the Islamists’ takeover.
He likewise expressed concern about drug smuggling, saying 93 per cent of the world’s heroin was Afghan.
Russia had hoped that the US and its allies would get a grip on the problem, but said plantations had increased a hundredfold.