Russia moves tanks to the Afghanistan border as US and British troops pull out
Russia has moved tanks to the former Soviet border with Afghanistan as the US and British military pull out from the country.
Vladimir Putin’s task force will ostensibly stage military drills with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan at the Harb-Maidon training ground.
But Russia has ordered its forces to the the border region in Tajikistan more than two weeks ahead of the start of the war games.
"As part of the upcoming joint tactical exercise, Russian tank crews from the 201st military base stationed in Tajikistan have covered the distance of 200 kilometres (124 miles) from the Lyaur range to the Harb-Maidon training ground near the border with Afghanistan,” said the defence ministry in Moscow.
Russia is concerned at the Taliban offensive across Afghanistan as Western forces leave the country.
Moscow’s aim is to ensure "the territorial integrity of Central Asian states", the defence ministry said.
Recent weeks have seen a rise in Afghan troops and refugees crossing into ex-Soviet state Tajikistan.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov that “everyone understands” the Western mission in Afghanistan had “failed”.
As Russian troops arrived on the border, he claimed: “we are not interested in chaos in that country.
“We do not want it to spill over into neighbouring, allied states but also because we wish well for the Afghan people.”
He said Russia would continue working with the Americans.
The 201st military base in Tajikistan is Russia’s largest military facility outside its borders.
It is stationed in Dushanbe and Bokhtar.
The military base comprises motor rifle, armoured, artillery and reconnaissance units, air defence forces, radiation, chemical and biological protection and intelligence troops.
The military base’s armament includes T-72 tanks, BTR-82A armoured personnel carriers, Grad multiple launch rocket systems, and Gvozdika and Akatsiya artillery systems.
The Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989, a disastrous commitment for the Red Army which contributed to the USSR’s collapse.