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Russia Boosts Security at Afghan Border

September 26, 2000|From Reuters

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan — Russian forces guarding the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan have stepped up security because of intensifying fighting in Afghanistan's civil war, a spokesman for the border guards said Monday.

But Interfax news agency quoted "military-diplomatic sources" in Moscow as saying Russia would not help anti-Taliban forces fighting in Afghanistan and would not get directly involved.

"Fighting is now going on just [a mile or two] from the Tajik-Afghan frontier," a border guard spokesman said, adding that the Taliban militia, which controls most of Afghanistan, had pushed right up to the border in places.

Russia deploys thousands of troops to defend the border in Tajikistan, an impoverished former Soviet republic that has been weakened by a civil war during much of the 1990s.

The spokesman said border guards had stepped up security because of the fighting and had moved artillery into position.

The Taliban said its troops took one of the crossing points, the river port of Shir Khan Bandar, last week.

While the Taliban controls much of Afghanistan, the United Nations still recognizes the legitimacy of ousted President Burhanuddin Rabbani, and clashes between forces loyal to him and the Taliban have increased in recent days.

On Friday, four artillery rounds fired from Afghan territory landed in Tajikistan, but no injuries or damage were reported.

Russia has accused the Taliban of helping separatist guerrillas in its southern region of Chechnya and of planning to export radical Islam to the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. The Taliban has rejected the charges.

Another Russian worry is that the Taliban's military success could boost drug traffic from the region.

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