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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Bolsters Troops in Tajikistan

President Boris Yeltsin on Thursday cleared the way to send fresh Russian troops to Tajikistan and for the army to take whatever measures necessary after a large-scale attack from Afghanistan killed more than 20 Russian soldiers and scores of villagers.


Both Yeltsin and the Supreme Soviet expressed outrage at the killings, issuing orders that free the Defense Ministry to act to protect Russian servicemen and citizens in the Central Asian state.


"The Russian president declares he is resolved and prepared to protect Russia's geopolitical interests and its allies", said a statement from the president's press secretary, Vyacheslav Kostikov.


Yeltsin did not accuse the government of Afghanistan of launching the attack, but he said the Afghan authoritie's inability to control the situation carried "a threat to the national interests of the Russian Federation".


After parliament voted 176-1 "to take the necessary steps to protect the lives and security of our compatriots", Deputy Defense Minister Konstantin Kobets said that "we take this as a go-ahead to use combat forces".


Kobets said there was no explicit authorization to attack Afghan territory, but made it clear that Russian troops would attack whatever was in the "battle zone". He said the army would recruit volunteers to reinforce Russian troops based there.


Russia became militarily engaged in Tajikistan during a year-long civil war in which Russia's 201st motorized division gave barely concealed support to the current government against a coalition of Islamic and democratic parties.


The war has now subsided. But opposition fighters have crossed the borders to train in Afghan mujahedin camps and have returned to fight in joint raiding parties. Russian border guards and troops stationed there have said they are guarding Russian interests against the spread of Islamic fundamentalism.


The parliament also unanimously adopted a friendship treaty with Tajikistan on Thursday, in what the Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Yevgeny Ambartsumov, called a "symbol" of Russia's support.


Russian television news showed footage of border post 12, which was attacked in the small hours of Tuesday morning from Afghan territory and from inside Tajikistan by a joint force of Afghan mujahedin and Tajik opposition fighters. The post, perched on the spur of a mountain in the dramatic border landscape, was burned and leveled, leaving nothing but rubble.


According to agency reports, the attackers had artillery support and numbered around 400 - the largest such force to have launched such a border raid to date. They overwhelmed the 50 border guards at the post, killing 20.


On Wednesday, Tajik government soldiers and Russian troops from the 201st division recaptured the post, losing several more lives. The television report said that 24 soldiers were killed in all and 18 wounded. Opposition casualties were reported to be heavy, but no figures were given.


Kobets told reporters that fighting continued Thursday between border posts 11 and 13. The authorities in Moscow came under strong pressure from the army Wednesday to take action.


Afghanistan's Islamic government said Russian fighter planes strafed a village on the border, killing seven people, The Associated Press reported, citing a state radio broadcast.


"The foreign ministry protests strongly against this action by the CIS forces and hopes that the government of Tajikistan will prevent the repetition of such actions", Radio Kabul said according to The Associated Press.


Defense Minister Pavel Grachev had called on the parliament to take quick action. "We are ready to defend the Russian population in Tajikistan, the population of a friendly state, and the Russian border guards", Grachev told Itar-Tass on Wednesday.