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Tajik Workers At Russian Base Fired After Protesting Unpaid Wages

  • RFE/RL's Tajik Service

Local workers at the 201st Russian military base in Kulob protest against the nonpayment of their salaries last month.

Local workers at the 201st Russian military base in Kulob protest against the nonpayment of their salaries last month.

KULOB, Tajikistan -- Seventeen civilian support staff at a Russian military base in southern Tajikistan say they've been fired after protesting against unpaid wages.

Said Zubaidov, an employee at Russia's 201st base in Kulob, told RFE/RL that the Tajik workers were fired on May 5.

Zubaidov and other local employees have not received salaries for at least six months.

There was no immediate comment from base officials or the third-party firm responsible for hiring support staff, Bit Service-Plus.

Igor Shcherbakov, a Russian official at the base, said recently that "the military base is not responsible for local employees because it pays...the Bit Service-Plus company to hire and pay local staff."

Bit Service-Plus recently confirmed that the Russian base had not made the relevant payments.

About 30 civilian workers, including cleaners, builders, and plumbers protested against unpaid wages in front of the base on April 15.

Some of the employees said on May 5 that they will stage new protests if they don't get paid.

The dispute is a potential irritant in close but sometimes strained relations between Tajikistan and Russia.

Moscow relies on the Central Asian country as a front line in its defense against the feared spread of violence and Islamic militancy from Afghanistan.

Some 7,000 Russian troops are stationed in Tajikistan under the jurisdiction of the 201st base, which is Russia's largest nonnaval military facility outside Russia.

Nearly 200 local civilians work for the base in three separate locations -- Kulob, Qurghon-teppa, and Dushanbe.

Russian officials have announced plans to increase the number of troops stationed in Tajikistan to 9,000 over the next five years and provide more military equipment through 2020.

Russian media have reported that Moscow is also prepared to grant Tajikistan $1.2 billion in military aid over the next few years.

Tajikistan heavily depends on Russia for the remittances from an estimated 1.2 million Tajik migrant workers in Russia that make up a sizeable portion of the country's economy.