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Russia tries to leverage ties with Taliban in Mideast policies

Russia's invitation to the Taliban's since-canceled inauguration ceremony indicates a special relationship has developed between Moscow and the Taliban.

Russia — along with Pakistan, China, Iran, Turkey and Qatar — was on a fairly short list of states invited by the Taliban to inaugurate their new government in Kabul on Sept. 11. The Speaker of the Federation Council (Russia’s upper house of Parliament) Valentina Matviyenko, said in a statement before the inauguration that diplomats would likely attend on behalf of Russia. According to her, representation was expected to be “at the level of ambassadors or other members of the diplomatic corps, no higher than that.” The Russian president's special envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, confirmed that the Russian ambassador in Kabul, Dmitry Zhirnov, would come to the ceremony. However, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that the Russian delegation would attend the event only if the Taliban government is inclusive.

Ultimately the question of whether Russian officials would arrive in Kabul was resolved by the Taliban themselves, who decided against an inauguration ceremony, instead just raising their flag over the presidential palace.

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