Soldiers from Russia and Tajikistan stage counter-terrorist drills

By Thomson Reuters Apr 18, 2024 | 10:33 AM

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Troops from Russia and Tajikistan on Thursday completed several days of joint exercises in the Central Asian country to rehearse scenarios for cross-border incursions by militants or illegal armed groups.

Tajikistan shares a long border with Afghanistan, which is home to a branch of Islamic State. The militant group claimed responsibility for an attack that killed at least 144 people at a concert hall just outside Moscow last month.

The Russian Defence Ministry released video of the drills, in which attack helicopters, drones, multiple launch rocket systems, howitzers and tanks were deployed in desert and mountain terrain against the mock enemy.

It said the objectives included “destroying terrorist gangs”, and the exercises incorporated lessons learned by Russia’s military from the war in Ukraine.

Russia and Tajikistan are both members of a security alliance of former Soviet states, and Russia maintains a military base in the country.

The exercises demonstrated the importance both sides attach to joint military cooperation, even as last month’s concert attack – the deadliest in Russia for 20 years – has threatened to strain their relations.

Nearly all the suspects so far arrested by Russia are nationals of Tajikistan, although Moscow, without providing evidence, has said it believes Ukrainian special forces were ultimately behind the massacre. Kyiv has strongly denied that.

President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia, which has several million workers from Central Asian countries including Tajikistan, needs to review its handling of immigration. Tajikistan has rejected a claim by a top Russian security official that Ukraine’s embassy in the Tajik capital was recruiting mercenaries to fight against Russia.

(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Andrew Heavens)