Putin Pledges Support for Tajikistan as Afghanistan Concerns Mount

Alexander Marrow
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rakhmon in Moscow, Russia May 8, 2021. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is working on strengthening its military base in Tajikistan and will do all it can to support the former Soviet republic amid rising tensions in Afghanistan, the RIA news agency cited President Vladimir Putin as saying on Saturday.


Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon, at a meeting with Putin in Moscow, said the situation in neighbouring Afghanistan had escalated since the United States' announcement last month that it would pull out its troops, with President Joe Biden promising the withdrawal of all troops by Sept. 11.    


"I know you are concerned about this situation. It goes without saying, it is a valid concern," Putin said. 


"For our part, we are doing everything we can to support you," he added.


Afghan security forces fought back a major Taliban offensive in southern Helmand province in early May as militants launched assaults around the country after the United States missed a May 1 deadline agreed in talks with the Taliban last year to withdraw troops.


In addition to hosting Russia's biggest military base abroad, Tajikistan has close economic ties with its former Soviet overlord as hundreds of thousands of Tajiks work in Russia to support families at home.


Putin touched on the subject of migrant workers in Russia, an issue which drew attention in April as over 60 people were detained in Moscow during a rare protest against the deportation of a renowned defender of Tajik migrant workers' rights.


"I know this is a sensitive issue for Tajikistan," Putin said. 


"We are doing everything to make people feel comfortable, especially as we do not currently have enough workers in some sectors of the economy."