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Russia has not rushed to formally recognize Taliban rule in Afghanistan, but President Vladimir Putin has called for gradually welcoming the group into "the civilized family of nations."   © Nikkei montage/Source photos by AP, Reuters and Getty Images
Asia Insight

Russia puts Taliban on 'probation' with Central Asia on knife edge

Moscow cautiously warms to once sworn enemy in light of other threats

DIMITRI SIMES JR., Contributing writer | Russia & Caucasus

MOSCOW -- On the morning of Aug. 16, a contingent of Taliban fighters and two armored vehicles equipped with machine guns surrounded the Russian Embassy in Kabul. Their mission: to protect the Russian diplomatic personnel inside.

As Russia's Ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov told the Echo Moskva radio station later that day, a Taliban commander promised him that "no one will harm a hair on the heads of Russian diplomats." In a sharp contrast from the tone of his Western counterparts, Zhirnov described the Taliban soldiers as "very adequate people" and praised the Islamist group for quickly restoring order in Kabul.

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