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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kabul to Get Russian Choppers, Radios

APIvanov, left, and Fahim touring the former headquarters of the Northern Alliance in the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul, on Friday.
Russia will provide the Afghan army with helicopters, communication equipment and materials to maintain its Soviet-made weapons, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Saturday after returning from a trip to Kabul.

Ivanov visited Kabul on Friday -- the first visit by a Russian defense minister to Afghanistan since Soviet troops withdrew from the country in 1989 after nearly a decade of occupation and war. He met with President Hamid Karzai, Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim and other Afghan officials.

Speaking to reporters Saturday, Ivanov said that Russia was focusing on providing economic and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan but was also interested in helping its fledgling military.

He said that Russia would provide radios, lubricants, trucks, spare parts and several military transport helicopters to the Afghan military.

"We aren't going to equip the entire Afghan military with helicopters, we are talking about supplying just several helicopters," Ivanov said. "We proceed from our own economic potential."

Ivanov wouldn't say how much the Russian military assistance would cost and how many helicopters and other military hardware will be delivered. He said Friday that all supplies would be delivered free of charge.

Earlier in the week, Itar-Tass quoted an unidentified military official as saying that before the end of the year Russia could provide Afghanistan with 15 Mi-8 transport helicopters and Mi-24 helicopter gunships, tanks, armored personnel carriers, mortars, rocket launchers and other weapons from the defense ministry's arsenals worth $35 million to $40 million.

Last year, Moscow provided $34 million in arms to anti-Taliban forces, according to Russian news reports. The supplies were mostly Soviet-era materiel, including armored vehicles, transport helicopters, anti-tank cannons and other weapons.

Ivanov said Saturday that more weapons supplies weren't on the agenda. "We aren't talking about weapons in the direct sense of the word," he said.

Ivanov also said that his ministry would set up a military school for training junior Afghan officers in Tajikistan, which borders Afghanistan. The school will be set up on the base of Russia's 201st Motorized Infantry Division which is stationed in Tajikistan, he said.

"In Kabul we announced the beginning of training of Afghan junior officers at the base of Russia's 201st division, headquartered on Tajikistan," Ivanov said in the Tajik capital Dushanbe, where he stopped briefly on his way back to Moscow.

In Kabul, Ivanov said that "the Afghan side gratefully accepted our offer" to train Afghan army personnel," according to Interfax.

Karzai traveled to Kabul to meet with Ivanov after surviving an assassination attempt Thursday in the southern city of Kandahar.

In a statement Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed "serious concern" over the assassination attempt and a car bombing in Kabul that killed 26 people.

"The hand of remaining Taliban and al-Qaida agents, who are displeased with the current positive changes on Afghan soil, is clearly visible behind these acts of terrorism," it said.