Russia will continue to have a military presence in Tajikistan for the next three decades after leaders of both countries signed an agreement Friday to extend the lease on a Soviet Union-era base until 2042.
There are about 7,000 Russian soldiers currently stationed in the former Soviet republic, tasked with preventing incursions by drug traffickers and Islamic militants, particularly along Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his counterpart, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon, also signed an agreement last week that eased visa restrictions for Tajik migrant workers entering Russia.
Tajikistan is the poorest country in Central Asia, and it is heavily dependent on remittances from migrant laborers in Russia.
About 1.1 million Tajiks, almost 15 percent of the population, live and work in Russia, Reuters reported. In 2010, migrant workers accounted for around 31 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, the World Bank reported.
Rakhmon has been in power for 20 years and faces a re-election run next year. His administration has been accused of human-rights abuses, blamed for ongoing poverty, and subject to public unrest. The Tajik leader has been keen on maintaining the support of the nation's powerful neighbor to the north.