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Monday, 26 November, 2001, 15:17 GMT
Russia to reopen Kabul embassy
A Russian Antonov transport plane lands at Bagram airport near Kabul
Russians return to the scene of the Soviet debacle
A Russian team has arrived in Afghanistan to prepare to reopen Moscow's embassy in Kabul.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said 12 military planes had brought equipment and personnel from Moscow's Emergencies and Health Ministries to Bagram airport, north of the Afghan capital.

The deputy emergencies minster, Yuri Vorobyev, told the Russian Interfax news agency that the team would clear mines from the road to Kabul and begin looking for a site for the new embassy and a humanitarian centre.

The old Russian embassy in central Kabul is in ruins.

Mr Putin said Russia was acting "at the request of the Islamic State of Afghanistan", using the name of the government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Clearing mines near Bagram airport
Russian experts will clear mines on the road to Kabul
The Rabbani government, which was ousted by the Taleban in 1996, is still officially recognised by the United Nations.

Moscow strongly backs Mr Rabbani, who is nominally head of the Northern Alliance, and the Russian defence minister has referred to the alliance as the "legitimate government" of Afghanistan.

The United States and its western allies, on the other hand, want a broader-based government in Kabul.

Many Pashtun residents of the capital remember massacres and looting a decade ago by factions now in the Northern Alliance, and fear that they will refuse to share power with other groups.

Growing contingent

Mr Putin said US troops and Northern Alliance forces had helped to get the Russian team into Kabul.

By the end of the week, some 88 Russians are expected to be in Kabul, working to develop the humanitarian centre, which is to coordinate assistance to Afghans and work with the future government.

Russia closed its embassy in Kabul in August 1992 after Islamic rebels overthrew the communist regime which Moscow had backed following the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan.

Moscow has expressed strong support for the US-led coalition against terrorism.

See also:

12 Nov 01 | Americas
Powers search for Afghan settlement
25 Nov 01 | South Asia
Rabbani 'still Afghan president'
23 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan talks delayed
21 Nov 01 | South Asia
US hopeful before Afghan talks
14 Nov 01 | South Asia
Rabbani's Afghan comeback
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