President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday Russia would not interfere in Afghanistan and that Moscow had learned from the Soviet occupation of the country, a week after the Taliban swept back into power.
“We’re not going to meddle in Afghanistan’s domestic affairs or involve our military in a conflict where everyone is against each other,” Putin said at a gathering of officials from the ruling United Russia party.
“The Soviet Union had its own experience in this country. We have learned the lessons we needed,” he said.
Moscow invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to support an Afghan communist government in conflict with Muslim guerrilla fighters.
The decade-long war there left up to two million Afghans dead, forced seven million more from their homes and led to the deaths of more than 14,000 Soviet troops.
Putin’s comments came after Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said US forces were “pawning off” Afghans fleeing the Taliban to neighbouring Moscow-allied Central Asia.
On a visit to Hungary, Lavrov said the United States was trying to convince “several Central Asian countries” to take in Afghans who previously worked with US forces in the now Taliban-controlled country.
He alleged that Washington tells the countries the Afghans will only be there temporarily.
“They say it’s for a few months because they need time to make them visas,” Lavrov said at a press conference with his Hungarian counterpart in Budapest.
“Afghans who worked with US forces were probably security checked inside out. Why do you need two more months to give these people a visa?” he asked, accusing the United States of a lack of respect for Central Asian nations.
Around 1,500 Afghans have crossed into neighbouring Uzbekistan after the Taliban takeover and are living in tents near the border, according to the Afghan embassy in Tashkent.
Putin complained last week about Western countries trying to place Afghan refugees in Central Asian countries “before obtaining visas to the United States or other countries.”
Putin has warned against an influx of refugees from Afghanistan, saying militants could enter Russia under the guise of seeking asylum.
Several former Soviet republics in Central Asia share a border both with Afghanistan and Russia, he told officials on Sunday.
Moscow has been cautiously optimistic about the new leadership in Kabul.
The Kremlin said Tuesday it was “attentively watching” the “disagreements” on whether to extend an August 31 deadline for the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.