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Russia Says Trying To Push Afghan Taliban To Join National Reconciliation

Russia's ambassador to NATO, Aleksandr Grushko
Russia's ambassador to NATO, Aleksandr Grushko

Russia says it is in contact with the Taliban in Afghanistan to push the militant group toward national reconciliation and to ensure the security of Russian citizens.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels on March 31, Russia's ambassador to NATO, Aleksandr Grushko, denied that Moscow is providing aid to the Taliban and said "many countries" maintain contacts with the group.

"The consultations we hold, the work we do, we do it with the participation of Afghanistan's central government," Grushko said.

Earlier, in London, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis expressed concern over Russia's interaction with the Taliban, which is fighting the U.S.-backed government and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

"I am not willing to say at this point if that is manifested into weapons and that sort of thing, but, certainly, what they are up to there in light of their other activities gives us concern," Mattis said.

The comments came after U.S. General Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, said on March 23 that he had seen evidence of increasing Russian efforts to influence the Taliban "and perhaps even to supply" the militant group.

Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax