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Last Updated: Monday, 18 October, 2004, 07:24 GMT 08:24 UK
Russia stresses Tajik presence
By Monica Whitlock
BBC Central Asia correspondent

Russia's space monitoring system in Tajikistan
Russia has taken full control over a space facility in Tajikistan
Russia's President Putin, on a visit to Tajikistan, is meeting the presidents of Central Asia on Monday for talks.

The visit is seen as a landmark, re-launching Russia's presence as a military power in Tajikistan.

It has opened a new army base and formally taken over a space monitoring complex high in the Tajik mountains.

For Russia, the base is a symbol of its new presence in Tajikistan. It will replace an old Soviet leftover, the garrison of the 201st Division.

Once complete, the base is to house 5,000 soldiers and perhaps have air support.

It is also to have formal control over a space monitoring centre, hidden away in the mountains and top secret for many years.

The base is not designed to protect Russia's borders - it is 2,000km from Dushanbe to Moscow - but it does give Russia reach into Asia.

Tajikistan sits between China, Afghanistan and Pakistan, while Uzbekistan lies to the west.

Many Russians are disconcerted by the coming of the American military to Central Asia, an area they traditionally regard as their backyard.

They see the Tajik base as a reassuring sign of Russia's sustained importance here.

To underscore the occasion, Mr Putin is now to meet the presidents of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, who have flown to Dushanbe for a separate meeting of a group called the Central Asian Co-operation Organisation.

Russia will now formally join the group, signalling its renewed commitment to this part of the world.

Timeline: Tajikistan
11 Mar 03  |  Country profiles
Country profile: Tajikistan
11 Mar 03  |  Country profiles

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