Eastern Express 20.06

The lacklustre list of foreign guests at the St Petersburg Economic Forum included one notable appearance: the delegates of the Taliban. Despite Moscow not officially recognising the fundamentalist Muslim government, their presence nevertheless at what was once known as “Russian Davos” suggests mutual relations between Kabul and Moscow are gathering steam.

The Taliban’s past as its present are steeped in violence and terrorism, but could Russia yet turn another blind eye to it nonetheless?

After the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in August 2021, Russia was one of several countries (including China) that maintained its embassy in Kabul, despite formally not recognising the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Immediately after the full-scale aggression against Ukraine began, in March 2022, a representative of the Taliban government was accredited in Moscow by the Russian Foreign Ministry - yet not having de jure recognition by that government.

Recent weeks seem to have brought a further warming in relations between Russia and Afghanistan.

On June 14, 2022, Russia's Special Representative to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, in an interview with Russia-1 television station, stated that the Taliban government's Deputy Trade Minister would visit Moscow for purchasing goods, and that Vladimir Putin had authorised reservation of grain for Afghanistan. Kabulov stated that there is a possibility Moscow will recognise the government in Kabul, and that the conditions for this will be determined by the president and the Russian foreign minister.

On June 15-18, 2022, a Taliban delegation took part in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

It is not improbable that Moscow will decide to recognise the Taliban regime with the aim of emphasising its presence and position in Central Asia, especially amid the prestige defeat which was the open refusal of Kazakh President Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev to recognise the puppet Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics. At the same time, Tokayev also declared Kazakhstan would placidly accept the accession of Ukraine to the EU. He stated this on June 17 at the Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, in the presence of Vladimir Putin, who did not react to this speech.

Our programme’s guest was Bruce Pannier from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.