Local Staff At Russian Military Base In Tajikistan Protest Over Not Getting Paid
Tajikistan is purportedly the linchpin of Moscow's security strategy in Central Asia, but local employees of the Russian military base there have protested that they haven't been paid their wages for six months.
According to RFE/RL's Tajik service, "dozens" of locals who work at the base in Kulyab, in southern Tajikistan near the border with Afghanistan, protested on April 15 to call attention to the slow payment. Russian base officials told the service that a third party company is responsible for the support staff, but that company has said that the base hasn't paid them.
If Russia isn't in fact making its payments on the base, that bodes ill for the ambitious plans that the Kremlin has announced for the base. Earlier this month, Russia announced that by 2020 it will increase the number of soldiers stationed there from 6,000 to 9,000. (It's already Russia's largest military base abroad.)
Russia is ostensibly concerned about Tajikistan's long border with Afghanistan, and has lately been ratcheting up the rhetoric about the possibility of Islamist radical spillover from Afghanistan into Central Asia. The new Russian-led security bloc, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, last week held a meeting in the northern Tajikistan city of Khujand, where "particular attention was given to the current situation in Afghanistan with regard to the activities of the IS international terrorist organization."
And Russia reportedly has promised a massive new military aid package to Tajikistan -- $1.2 billion, according to a Russian defense ministry source speaking to the Russian newspaper Kommersant. While the agreement was signed in summer 2014, the amount wasn't known until now.
Incidentally, that figure is very similar to the $1.3 billion in military aid that Russia promised Kyrgyzstan in 2012 -- but then it was 40 billion rubles, whereas this new promise to Tajikistan is actually 70 billion rubles. In that 2012 package, Tajikistan also was promised $200 million in military aid. That discrepancy reportedly rankled Dushanbe, and became a point of contention in the drawn out negotiations over the extension of the Russian base's lease. And while Moscow is now making big new promises, Tajikistan has quietly been complaining that it hasn't been delivering on the old ones.
Anyway, Tajikistan's new aid package would go toward communications equipment, small arms and ammunition, artillery and anti-aircraft missile systems, Kommersant reported, noting that: "The type of equipment has already been agreed upon, but deliveries have, in fact, not begun." In Tajikistan, no doubt, they're not going to believe it until they see it.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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