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Russia has reportedly warned Tajikistan it may suspend train traffic only to deny this shortly afterwards. Analysts see the reason for the incident in the heavy influx of heroin from Afghanistan.
“The Russian Transport Ministry and the Russian railways company RZD have been asked to present to the CIS member-states’ railway transport committee a corresponding document for the suspension of railway traffic with the Republic of Tajikistan in its present form until the elimination of the identified shortcomings,” the deputy chief of the FSB’s border guard service, Vladimir Mochalov, said after last weekend’s on-site meeting of the state border commission under the chairmanship of Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.
Mochalov said the commission was particularly critical of the grave drug trafficking situation and problems with national passports. He described the Dushanbe-Moscow train as a “systematically used channel for the delivery of narcotic drugs to the Russian Federation.”
Mochalov said effective control was a great problem, because Tajikistan’s citizens were still free to enter Russian territory upon the presentation of their national passports. He explained that the national documents of Tajikistan’s citizens lacked the proper degree of protection against forgery and were unreadable by Russia’s automatic control scanners.
Rogozin, who earlier inspected the Dushanbe-Moscow train together with Russia’s chief sanitary doctor Gennady Onishchenko, said that the train should have never be allowed to enter Russian territory in principle.
“One has the feeling that it is a great hazard to the health of the nation… The technical condition of the train is beyond criticism. It is appalling. Such means of public transport should never be allowed into decent states.
At the same time he said that the state border commission he was in charge of “does not support radical proposals and believes that such matters of cooperation with Tajikistan and Russia’s partner in the CSTO and the CIS must be considered in the spirit of partnership and unconditional respect for Russian legislation.”
The federal security service FSB on Tuesday said on its official website that the FSB’s border guard service is not the initiator of proposals concerning temporary suspension of railway links with the Republic of Tajikistan or restrictions on the entry of passenger trains that fail to comply with sanitary norms, because this goes beyond its competences. As for Mochalov, the same statement runs, he merely articulated various ideas of how order might be restored to the railways.
In the meantime, Rogozin also said at the conference that the citizens of the other CIS member-states travelling to Russia might have to brace for restrictions soon. For instance, they may have to be asked to present foreign travel passports. He recalled that in his message to the Federal Assembly last December President Vladimir Putin pointed to the need for taking such measures no later than 2015. “Possibly, such measures may follow much earlier, in any case those in relation to train links with Tajikistan,” Rogozin speculated.
He warned that some processes underway in Afghanistan and Central Asia were posing a threat to the security of Russia.
“The country is vulnerable to an onslaught of heroin gangs. A real war is on against our country, and its scale is so big that the incoming amount of heroin can be likened to a weapon of mass destruction,” he said.
For his part the director of Russia’s drug control police FSKN, Viktor Ivanov, said that Russia was prepared to print the documents for the people of Tajikistan and the other former Soviet republics. At the same time he firmly opposed the introduction of a visa regimen, because that would trigger anger among Tajik citizens.
“The introduction of visas would push the people of that country away from us. This is unacceptable from the standpoint of long-term strategic interests,” Ivanov said.
Suspension of railway links with Russia would be an excessively radical measure. It would surely harm the material position of most of the country’s people, the first deputy president of the Tajik Railway, Usman Kalantarov, said in response to Mochalov’s statement. “We agree with some of Russia’s complaints about the quality of service on our trains and the sanitary condition of the cars,” he said. However, he believes that “all of the identified problems may be eliminated in cooperation with the Russian counterparts and for doing that radical measures are very unnecessary.”
The head of Russia’s Audit Chamber, Sergei Stepashin, currently on a visit in Dushanbe, told President Emomali Rakhmon on Tuesday that train traffic suspension “is impossible, in view of the fact that up to one million Tajik migrants have jobs in Russia, and for most of them this is the most affordable kind of transport.”
Experts believe that the intention to fast-track the introduction of foreign travel passports for people arriving from the other CIS countries partially stems from the growing anger of the Russian population. Of late, several large Russian citizens saw several rallies in support of the demand for plugging uncontrolled access to Russian territory for guests from Central Asia and the Caucasus. Russian society is actively debating the possibility of introducing visas in relations with the other CIS countries. Some State Duma members have been firmly pressing for such a measure towards the countries of Central Asia in order to ease the influx of narcotic drugs.
“The idea of letting people from Central Asia and the other CIS member-states enter Russia only upon the presentation of foreign travel passports looks as a tiny step towards the public opinion. Why tiny? The demand all arriving guests should carry foreign travel passports is not tantamount to the introduction of visas,” says political scientist Pavel Svyatenkov.