Tajikistan's ambassador to Russia says his country expects Russia to pay rent for bases it uses on Tajik territory.
In an interview with RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Ambassador Abdulmajid Dostiev said the two countries were preparing to extend Russia's use of three bases in Tajikistan for another 49 years.
Dostiev indicated that one of the obstacles to signing the agreement is Tajikistan's insistence that Russia pay rent for use of bases in Dushanbe, Korgon-Teppe, and Kulob.
"Speaking not as an ambassador but as a citizen of Tajikistan, no one in the world today intends to give up a small plot of their land for nothing," Dostiev said when asked about media reports suggesting the Tajik side was asking for $300 million. "And our country should keep this in mind, whether there should be payment of some $300 million or compensation through providing military-technical aid. Today, nobody will say thank you to those who give up their land for free to others."
Dostiev said that even 10 percent of the reported $300 million would be acceptable.
Russia currently doesn’t pay any rent for the use of bases in Tajikistan.
Russia's 201st Division has been stationed in the country since just after the end of World War II. The unit remained in Tajikistan after the collapse of the Soviet Union, mainly providing support for Russian border guards along the 1,344-kilometer Tajik-Afghan frontier but also guarding vital strategic facilities in Tajikistan during the country's 1992-1997 civil war.
Dostiev said times now are different.
"Today's Tajikistan is not the same country it was in the 1990s when its fate was decided in other countries," he said.
Tajik troops took over watch on the Afghan border in 2005. But some 7,000 Russian troops continue to serve in Tajikistan -- Moscow's largest ground force deployed abroad.
Tajikistan has raised the subject of Russia paying rent for use of bases before.
But the Tajik ambassador’s comments came after Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambaev brought the subject of Russia's unpaid rent for use of a base in his country during a February 23-25 visit to Moscow.
Atambaev said in an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio on February 25 that Kyrgyzstan may demand that Russia vacate the base it uses in Kyrgyzstan, at Kant, some 40 kilometers from the capital, Bishkek. Atambaev said Russia has been using the base for the past four years but has not been paying rent.
"This Russian base...is not even paying the lease payment and is not complying with its obligations," Atambaev said. "Do we need such a base?"
Atambaev said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the Russian defense minister to ensure that the $15 million in back payments be made within 10 days.
A Kremlin statement said Russia “confirmed its readiness to pay in the near future for its rental and use of infrastructure facilities in Kyrgyzstan.”
But the statement added: "The question of the repayment of Kyrgyzstan’s public debt to the Russian Federation, amounting to almost half a billion dollars ($493 million), is more complicated.”
Russia opened the Kant air base in 2003 to provide air support to the Collective Security Treaty Organization’s rapid deployment force.
Atambaev has said repeatedly when the U.S. military's lease on the Manas base, also near Bishkek, expires in 2014 it will not be renewed and he wants all U.S.-NATO troops out. U.S. forces have been using the base in Kyrgyzstan since late 2001 in support of operations in Afghanistan.
Since 2001 there also have been NATO troops in Tajikistan, some 200 mainly French soldiers, using the air base outside Dushanbe for supporting operations in neighboring Afghanistan.
Based on reporting by RFE/RL's Tajik Service, with ITAR-TASS, Interfax, AKIpress, and 24.kg