DUSHANBE, March 25, 2011, Asia-Plus -- The issue of tax-free supply of Russian oil products to Tajikistan is usually an economic problem but it currently looks to be political, former Economic Development and Trade Minister also one of founders of the Islamic Revival Party (IRP) Davlat Usmon told Asia-Plus Friday afternoon, commenting on increase in Russia’s tariffs for light oil exported to Tajikistan.

“We have repeatedly got evidence by example of Ukraine, Belarus and other countries that Russia frequently uses economic leverage to achieve its political goals,” the expert said.

“Most likely, the issue of cancellation of export duty on light oil for Tajikistan will remain unsettled until issues related to use of the Ayni airfield and further fate of the Russian border operational group in Tajikistan become clear.”

According to him, Russia will compromise only in the event that the mentioned issues will be solved in its favor.

Usmon, however, added that it could not be ruled out that in connection with deterioration of the situation of the NATO troops in Afghanistan Tajikistan now had other alternatives of use of the Ayni airfield.  “May be any other countries offer Tajikistan more than Russia offered,” said Davlat Usmon.  “May be what the United States offers for the possible use of the facility is much more profitable than what Tajikistan will gain from restoration of the tax-free status.  Anyway, our authorities can count.”

We will recall that in a report released at a news conference in Dushanbe, Tajik Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi announced on January 27 that Dushanbe and Moscow are continuing talks on Russia’s possible use of the recently renovated Ayni airfield.  According to him, the two countries have different views on “certain issues” related to the use of the facility.  The minister also restated the Tajik government’s position that Russia is the only country with which Dushanbe is holding talks on the airfield.

An official opening of the renovated Ayni airfield belonging to the Tajik Ministry of Defense was held on September 3, 2010.  According to the presidential press service, some 70 million U.S. dollars have been spent by the Tajik and Indian sides for rehabilitation of the airfield.  The airfield, located some 20 kilometers west of Dushanbe, now has state-of-the-art navigational and defense technology.  Its runway was also extended to 3,200 meters so that all types of aircraft can land there.