November 20, 2001
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US recruiting Russian veterans for Afghan war: TV report

Arun Mohanty in Moscow

The Russian media has thrown up evidence to show the US is recruiting Russian veterans to fight its war in Afghanistan, a charge the US embassy has denied.

A television report showed a 40-year-old reserve, who had fought the 10-year war in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, as saying he would soon be going to that country again to fight the Afghans, but this time on the side of the Americans.

He refused to face the camera neither did he tell his name.

The veteran boasted there was not a single garrison that he had not visited during his service in Afghanistan, saying he would leave as soon as he signed a contract with the Americans.

He produced two business cards, one bearing the name of US military attaché Kevin Mcgrowth and the other of his aide Christopher Ton, which he said he had picked up from the offices of one of the recruitment agencies.

While the US embassy in Moscow refused comment, another Russian shown on the programme said he had met Americans in connection with the recruitment exercise.

A footage showed Vladimir Shamanov, head of a public organisation that maintains a record on 3,000 Afghan war veterans, as saying the US army was recruiting Russians through several underground offices in Moscow and St Petersburg.

In another footage, security guards at the US embassy were shown telling the reporter that they were tired of inquiries from hundreds of Russians about the recruitment centre.

"They are drawn by promises of huge wages, and there have been visitors not only from Moscow but also from Tula, Rezan, and Pskov," a guard was shown as saying.

The media has reported the existence of underground recruitment centres in Moscow, St Petersburg, Nizhni, Novgorod and other Russian cities.

The Afghan war veterans are being reportedly offered $5,000 a month for fighting alongside the US soldiers.

Though the Soviet army had to pullout from Afghanistan after heavy loss of men and military hardware, the veteran soldiers with their vast experience would prove to be a useful asset for the US army in its new war.

US Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow Monday denied that his embassy was engaged in recruitment of Russian veterans.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, too, maintained he was not aware of any recruitment drive by the US, saying under Russian laws recruitment of mercenaries was a criminal offence.

But military observers here said they believed Russia might have already given a green signal to the US to recruit veterans of the Afghan war given the improved relations between the two countries.

They drew parallels between US-led war on Afghanistan and the Spanish Civil War when thousands of Soviet officers and soldiers fought against the dictatorship of Franco.

Indo-Asian News Service

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