Russia Plans Tajik Military Base Says Defense Chief

DUSHANBE–April 6 (Reuters) – Russia plans to put a military base in ex-Soviet Tajikistan–Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said on Tuesday.

Sergeyev told reporters in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe that the two countries agreed to establish the base during his talks with the Central Asian state’s head Imomali Rakhmonov.

"Virtually all the questions we had were resolved during my talks with the Tajik president–including the establishment in the republic of a Russian military base," he said.

Sergeyev said only technicalities remained before a final decision–and that they would be addressed during Rakhmonov’s planned visit to Russia in mid-April.

He gave no details as to the size or type of base that would be set up in the impoverished ex-Soviet state of 5.7 million people.

But Valentin Orlov–head of Russia’s Tajik peacekeeping force–told the daily newspaper Business and Politics that it would be located in Tajikistan for 25 years and staffed largely by the 201st division of which he is in charge.

Russia already has about 20,000 troops deployed in the mountainous republic to strengthen its southern flank with Afghanistan and safeguard a shaky cease-fire agreed in mid-1997 that ended Tajikistan’s own five-year civil war.

Of those 20,000–around 8,000 belong to the peacekeeping 201st division.

Tajikistan’s reliance on Russian military support would increase yet further with the creation of the base.

It would also run counter to a trend seen in several ex-Soviet republics–where leaders are keen to sever Soviet-era military ties.

Azerbaijan–Georgia and Uzbekistan have all threatened to leave the collective security treaty which unites members of the loose Commonwealth of Independent States grouping.

Sergeyev said on Monday that Moscow wanted its former satellite states to remain within the treaty–which the breakaway countries say is ineffectual.

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