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Russia Will Work to 'Normalize' Afghanistan – Putin

Vladimir Putin and his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rakhmon. Alexander Shcherbak / TASS

Russia is working actively to "normalize" the situation in Afghanistan, President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday during a visit to neighboring Tajikistan, evoking Moscow's responsibilities in the area.

"We are doing everything to normalize the situation [in Afghanistan] and we are trying to build relations with the political forces that control the situation," Putin said during talks with Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmon.

But their starting point was that Afghanistan's ethnic groups should take a full part in running the country, he added, in comments broadcast by Russian media.

"Here, you know best [...] what needs to be done to ensure that the situation in the region, in this zone where we have a common responsibility, is stable and threatens no one," he told Rakhmon.

This is Putin's first trip abroad since the start of Russia's military operation in Ukraine on February 24.

Russia has a major military base in Tajikistan, one of its allies in the region.

Tajikistan has a 1,200-kilometer-long border with Afghanistan and Tajik forces regularly clash with Afghan drug smugglers.

The return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan last August has led some observers to fear that Tajikistan, the poorest of the former Soviet states, could be destabilized.

The country remains economically very dependent on Russia.

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