Russia’s Foreign Ministry has sent a note to Tajikistan saying State Duma deputy Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s remarks about Tajikistan and its president were personal views expressed during a talk show on television.
An April 25 note from the Russian Foreign Ministry says “the comments expressed do not have anything in common with the position of Russia.”
Tajikistan sent Russia a protest note on April 23 after Zhirinovsky appeared on Russian television last week and made some scathing comments.
During the April 18 program “Poedinok” (Duel) on the Rossiya television channel, Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, questioned Tajik authorities’ insistence on Russia paying higher rent for use of three military bases.
“The Tajik communists are again inflating the price for our base in Tajikistan. The arrogance! They know Russia has money. ‘Pay more.’ We should tell them, ‘We will stop taking take your workers that come here for jobs,” he yelled to a largely sympathetic audience.
Russia’s 201st Division has been stationed in Tajikistan since the end of World War II, remaining there after the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991.
Seen as a bulwark against instability in Central Asia and neighboring Afghanistan, the Tajik government allowed the 201st to stay, for many years without having to pay any rent.
But recent decisions from Moscow to pay Kyrgyzstan rent for the Kant base and other facilities Russian troops use there, and the willingness of Western governments with troops in Afghanistan to pay for the use of Central Asian bases, prompted Dushanbe to talk about the price for Russian troops using bases in Tajikistan.
Zhirinovsky’s call to ban the hundreds of thousands of migrant laborers from Tajikistan is a serious threat since such workers sent some $3.65 billion from Russia back home to Tajikistan in 2012, roughly half of Tajikistan’s GDP.
“What will the head of the republic [Tajik President Emomali] Rahmon do then? He knows well that it would be the end for him,” Zhirinovsky said.
The outspoken Russian politician then predicted what he thought that would mean for Rahmon.
“And maybe the Taliban would trample on Tajikistan and they would hang [Rahmon] in the center of Dushanbe, like they did [former Afghan leader] Najibullah,” Zhirinovsky warned.
Najibullah was dragged from a UN compound after the Taliban captured Kabul in September 1996 and hanged from a post in the city’s center.
Tajikistan sent the protest note to Russia and deputies in the Tajik parliament also denounced Zhirinovksy’s comments during an April 24 session of the lower house of parliament, the Majlisi Namoyandagon.
One was Shukurjon Zuhurov, who said, “The recent television speech by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, deputy in Russian State Duma, that was broadcast on Russian state TV Rossiya 1 was insulting to the highest degree.”
The April 25 note from the Russian Foreign Ministry called Tajikistan an “ally and strategic partner.” Viktor Zavarzin, the first deputy chairman of the State Duma's Defense Committee, said on April 19 that Russia’s security could not be guaranteed without Russian bases in Central Asia and cooperation with partners there.