PRESIDENT PUTIN TO OPEN RUSSIAN MILITARY BASE IN TAJIKISTAN

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DUSHANBE, October 17 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin who is now on an official visit to Tajikistan is going to visit the Russian military base in the country.

On Saturday Vladimir Putin and President of Tajikistan Emomali Rakhmonov signed the Protocol of Exchange of Letters of Ratification to the Treaty on the Status and Terms of Deployment of the Russian Military Base in Tajikistan. The treaty was signed on April 16, 1999.

The two presidents also signed the agreement between Russia and Tajikistan on the use of Tajik movable property provided to the Russian military base on a temporary basis.

Russian and Tajik Defense Ministers Sergei Ivanov and Sherali Khairulloyev, on their part, signed an intergovernmental agreement on the use of the Nurek optical-electronic space surveillance system and transfer thereof into Russia's property.

Vladimir Putin told a news conference after the signing ceremony that a Russian military base in Tajikistan provided stability to the republic.

"The establishment of a Russian military base in Tajikistan, and its reinforcement - which we will certainly do - will not only secure the investment, but will also provide stability to Tajikistan," he said.

According to the Russian President, from next year Russia will train Tajik military personnel for free.

President of Tajikistan Emomali Rakhmonov said that the deployment of a Russian military base in Tajikistan would provide security to Europe as well as Tajikistan and the region.

"Tajikistan will act as a bumper protecting others, Europe as well, from terrorism, extremism, and drugs," he told the news conference.

According to the Tajik President, his country together with Russian border guards deployed in the area intercepted about $1 billion's worth of drugs (European prices) bound for Europe, thus "saving 22 million people from drug addiction."

Sergei Ivanov estimated the future strength of the Russian militarybase in the country at 5,000 men.

When asked where these men will come from, the Russian minister said, "in fact, the 201st Division [currently deployed in Tajikistan] will be transformed into a military base."

"The base will certainly have an aviation component deployed on the Aini Airfield, 20 kilometers from Dushanbe," Mr. Ivanov said and added that, apart from rotary-wing aircraft, the base will operate four to five fighter jets.

According to the Russian minister, the Russian military base in Tajikistan "will certainly be a factor of stability and security in the region."

Speaking on the Nurek agreement, Mr. Ivanov said it would "provide confidence" to Russian Space Forces "for 50 years to come."

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