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Tajikistan rebukes Russia over ‘unacceptable’ comments

Ex-Soviet Tajikistan Monday lodged a formal complaint with Russia’s embassy in Dushanbe over what it described as unacceptable comments about the impoverished state by Russian politicians.

Officials expressed outrage over an interview with controversial right-wing Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky in which he called for the annexation of the Central Asian republic, which he said had become a failed state.

“Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have no future as states. Let’s make them the ninth federal district (of Russia),” Zhirinovsky said last month during an interview with radio station Russian News Service.

Zhirinovsky, notorious for his provocative remarks, is the leader of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party and is deputy speaker of the Russian lower house of parliament, the State Duma.

“The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan Khamrokhon Zarifi handed a note to the Russian Ambassador to Tajikistan Yuri Popov,” foreign ministry spokesman Davlat Nazriyev told AFP.

“During the meeting the Tajik diplomat drew attention to… the reaction of the Tajik side about biased statements or negative judgments of a number of government officials of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Tajikistan.”

Tajik officials also blasted comments in the Russian press by the head of Russia’s consumer protection agency Gennady Onishchenko describing floods which killed 23 in Tajikistan as the result of divine intervention.

Under Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon, the impoverished nation of 7.5 million has sought to maintain decent ties with Moscow to buoy its faltering economy, while improving relations with both the West and Iran.

But Tajikistan, the poorest state to emerge from the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly two decades ago, has seen relations with Moscow plummet in recent months amid a series of economic and cultural spats.

Russia moved to ban imports of dried fruit and nuts from Tajikistan earlier this year following an outbreak of polio in the mountainous country, a move that Dushanbe says unfairly penalizes the cash-strapped nation.