Russia offered U.S. use of Central Asia bases for Afghan intel - paper


FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin answers questions about his article titled "On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians" in Saint Petersburg, Russia July 13, 2021. Picture taken July 13, 2021. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolskyi/Kremlin via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin in June offered U.S. counterpart Joe Biden the use of Russian military bases in Central Asia for information gathering from Afghanistan, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Saturday, as American troops leave the country.

Taliban fighters have made major advances as U.S. forces pull out after 20 years of war, a security headache for Moscow which fears refugees may be pushed into its Central Asian backyard and its southern defensive flank destabilised.

In a rare offer during a period of frosty relations between Washington and Moscow, Putin proposed at June 16 talks with Biden in Geneva that they coordinate on Afghanistan and put Russia's bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to "practical use", Kommersant reported, citing sources.

The newspaper said this could involve the exchange of information obtained using drones but that there had been no concrete response from the U.S. side. The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that the Biden administration was in talks with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan about temporarily taking in thousands of Afghans who worked with U.S. forces and now face threats from the Taliban, citing three sources familiar with the matter.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday said the U.S. and NATO alliance withdrawal from Afghanistan made the political and military situation more uncertain, which in turn exacerbated the terrorist threat in the region.

Speaking at a conference with senior Central Asian officials in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, Lavrov said Russia wanted to help kickstart peace talks between the warring sides in Afghanistan.

(Reporting by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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