DUSHANBE, October 1 (RIA Novosti) – The lower house of Tajikistan’s parliament ratified Tuesday a long-stalled deal to extend the lease of Russia’s military base in the Central Asian nation until 2042.
The deal, supported by 57 of 63 lawmakers in the Assembly of Representatives, will now have to be approved by the upper house and signed by President Emomali Rahmon. No dates were set Tuesday for the agreement’s further review.
The previous lease on the 201st Military Base – that, at 7,000 troops, houses Russia’s biggest military garrison abroad – was set to expire next year, but Rahmon and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed last fall to prolong it for 30 years.
The deal came after months of haggling, with Russian media reporting that Tajikistan wanted to hike the annual rent for the base to $250 million, though a Kremlin aide said last fall that Moscow got the base “almost free of charge.”
Putin ordered the Russian military last summer to provide assistance to Dushanbe ahead of the upcoming pullout of coalition forces from neighboring Afghanistan in 2014, which Moscow and Dushanbe fear will increase instability in the region.
Since 2005, Moscow has also supplied the Tajikistan army with military equipment worth a combined $411 million and trained more than 2,000 Tajikistan officers, Tajikistan’s Defense Minister Sherali Khairullayev said in the parliament on Tuesday.
The lower house also ratified Tuesday a bilateral travel agreement easing rules for Tajikistan nationals visiting Russia, a major employer of Central Asian migrant workers. Between 800,000 and 900,000 of Tajikistan’s total population of 8 million are working in Russia, according to Tajikistan government figures; remittances sent back home in 2012 were estimated by Russia’s Central Bank at $3.6 billion, or almost half of the republic’s GDP.