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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In Reversal, Tajik Leader Will Visit Russia After All

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon took off for Moscow on Tuesday afternoon, according to a source at the Dushanbe airport, after reversing an earlier decision to cancel a visit to the capital.

Tajikistan had announced Rakhmon's trip cancellation in a move analysts said was aimed at pressuring Moscow to increase financial support for the impoverished nation or risk losing a key ally in Central Asia.

Asked why the president had changed his mind, Tajik Foreign Ministry spokesman Davlat Nazriyev said he did not have an explanation.

Once in Moscow, the Tajik leader is due to hold talks with President Dmitry Medvedev and attend regional security and economic summits organized by Russia later in the week.

Analysts say Tajikistan has been emboldened by heightened U.S. attention because of its strategic proximity to Afghanistan and wants to show Moscow that it may consider alternative alliances if Russia did not show more commitment to its ties with Tajikistan.

Russia has for years promised to help the tiny former Soviet nation finish building the Rogun hydroelectric power station, whose cost is estimated at up to $3.2 billion and which is central to Tajik efforts to solve domestic energy shortages.

But with the financial crisis deepening, the project is taking longer than planned. Analysts say worries about investment climate in Tajikistan have also stalled negotiations.

Tajikistan, which has little explored mineral resources, is also worried that Russia has more strategic interest in its energy-rich Central Asian neighbors such as Uzbekistan.

(Reuters, MT)