DUSHANBE -- Russia's ambassador to Tajikistan says Russian-Tajik relations are friendly and unaffected by a dispute over the prosecution of two pilots working for a Russian company, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
Yury Popov told RFE/RL on December 22 that media reports of tension between Moscow and Dushanbe are the "incorrect thoughts of some journalists."
He said the sentencing and later release by Tajik officials of two pilots from the Russian company Rolkan Investment did not negatively impact the "friendly relations" between Russia and Tajikistan.
Moscow initially recalled its ambassador from Dushanbe and hundreds of Tajik workers were detained by Russian officials with many of them being sent back to Tajikistan. Those actions angered many Tajiks but tensions calmed after the pilots were released from jail and allowed to leave Tajikistan.
Popov noted that Moscow and Dushanbe are in the process of extending the leases for Russian military bases in Tajikistan. He said Russia's "national interests" in Tajikistan are "well-protected."
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Tajikistan in the fall resulted in reports that Moscow is seeking to prolong the presence of its military in Tajikistan by 49 years and that a document extending the stay of Russian forces in the country will be ready for approval by February.
But some Tajik experts say they don't think Dushanbe-Moscow relations are strong and point to Tajikistan's poor relations with Uzbekistan, a dispute that many feel Russia helps to provoke.
Komyob Jalilov, an analyst from the Center of Strategic Studies in the Tajik president's office, told RFE/RL on December 22 that in the last 10 years Russia has lost a lot of influence among former Soviet republics because Moscow behaves like a "big brother."
He said that although Russia refers to itself as a factor of stability in former Soviet republics, in reality a lot of those countries consider Russia to often be one of the causes of their problems.
General Abdullo Habibov, Tajikistan's former deputy defense minister, told RFE/RL on December 22 that Tajik officials should always keep Russian interests in mind but should always put Tajikistan's national interests first.
Hundreds of thousands of Tajik labor migrants work in Russia and their remittances are extremely important for their families in Tajikistan and that country's economy.