DUSHANBE -- Tajik independent journalists and analysts have criticized the belated official response to Russian officials’ negative remarks about the country, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
Tajik Foreign Minister Hamrohkhon Zarifi summoned Russian Ambassador Yury Popov on June 7 and handed him a protest note about the remarks, made by Russian nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and chief public health inspector Gennady Onishchenko.
Zhirinovsky, the head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, said last month that Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have failed as independent states and should be incorporated into the Russian Federation as the ninth federal district.
Onishchenko, who banned the import of dried fruit from Tajikistan after an outbreak of polio there, referred to the floods that hit Tajikistan last month as "divine retribution."
Tajik Foreign Ministry spokesman Davlat Nazri told RFE/RL that the Tajik leadership considers these remarks "biased" and "frivolous."
The Foreign Ministry said in its protest note that the ban on imports of dried fruit from Tajikistan has caused serious problems for farmers, especially in the north of the country.
Independent Tajik media too have criticized those statements, but also the response from Dushanbe.
Irshod Sulaimoni, the chief editor of the independent weekly "Millat," noted that the protest note came "only after independent media criticized the Tajik government's silence in this regard."
Journalist Rajabi Mirzo connected the protest to an upcoming summit of a regional security organization that is dominated by Russia.
Analysts told RFE/RL that by handing over a formal protest note to its ally Russia, Dushanbe also seeks to underscore its foreign policy priorities on the eve of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Tashkent later this week.