Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia wants to remove the Taliban from its terrorist list. EPA-EFE/SERGEY BOBYLEV/SPUTNIK/


Russia to remove Taliban from its terrorist list


Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has announced that the Taliban will be removed from the Russian Government’s list of terrorist organisations.

“We’re taking the same approach as Kazakhstan and removing the Taliban from our list of terrorist groups,” Russian state-owned news outlet RIA Novosti quoted Lavrov as saying on May 27.

“We are not indifferent to Afghanistan,” he added. “Above all, we are not indifferent to our allies in Central Asia.”

Russia listed the Taliban as a terrorist group in 2003 after the organisation supported Chechnya in its attempts to become independent and tried to sell heavy-duty weapons to Chechen rebels.

The Taliban became an international pariah and a UN Security Council resolution labelled the group as terrorists.

But, in August 2021, when US troops withdrew from Afghanistan in a hasty, poorly organised retreat, the Taliban took power in the country again.

It declared the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and was only challenged by a local branch of the more extreme Islamic State – Khorasan Province.

On March 22 this year, the Islamic State organised a brutal terrorist attack in Moscow, killing more than 140 people.

Moscow has looked to build ties with the Taliban since it regained power and has reportedly had informal contact with the movement.

Russia has invited Taliban representatives to a number of international events, including to the St Petersburg Economic Forum scheduled in early June.

The latest move by the Kremlin came after Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s intelligence service, said that the growth of other terrorist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan posed a threat to the security of the region.

He said that when foreign intervention in Afghanistan ended, the Taliban administration could re-establish order in the country. Russia has long accused the US and UK of destabilising Afghanistan and Central Asia in general.

When the US occupied Afghanistan, it claimed Russia was helping the Taliban and attempting to undermine the then-Afghan government, which was loyal to the US at the time.

In 2018, the US military commander in Afghanistan accused Moscow of sending weapons to the Taliban, which it denied.

Russia has a chequered history in Afghanistan; in 1979 the then-Soviet Union invaded the country and fought a bloody 10-year war with Islamist militias of the Mujahideen. Those militias later evolved to become the Taliban.