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Tajikistan Denies Imposing Travel Ban On Russian Children

DUSHANBE -- The Tajik Foreign Ministry has dismissed a statement by a Russian government official claiming that Russian children are barred from leaving Tajikistan, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Tajik Foreign Ministry spokesman Davlat Nazriev told RFE/RL that Russian children could enter or leave the country without any restrictions.

According to Russian officials, some 1,000 children with Russian citizenship live in Tajikistan with their parents. They say the Tajik Health Ministry rejected a request on May 8 by Gennady Onishchenko, Russia's chief health inspector, to help Russian children leave Tajikistan.

Onishchenko imposed a ban last week on Tajik children under the age of 6 from entering Russia because of a polio outbreak.

The World Health Organization (WHO) diagnosed several polio cases in Tajikistan last month. Twelve children have since died from the disease.

Tajik Deputy Health Minister Azam Mirzoev said he has no reports of any Tajik children infected with polio traveling to Russia.

WHO spokeswoman Sona Bari told RFE/RL that if polio cases are discovered in any country the organization recommends the vaccination of all children under 15 who arrive or leave the country.

Some 4 million doses of vaccine have been sent to Tajikistan and a mass immunization program is under way.

Onishchenko also banned the import of dried fruit from Tajikistan. Tajik Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi asked Russia last week to rescind that ban.