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Russia Boosts Flow of Humanitarian Aid to Afghanistan - 2001-12-01

Russia is increasing the flow of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan as part of Moscow's attempt to beef up its presence in the Afghan capital, Kabul. Those plans include reopening its diplomatic mission there.

Several planeloads of Russian food and emergency supplies have been sent to Kabul from Dushanbe, capital of neighboring Tajikistan.

Russian officials say more than 60 tons of rice, canned meat and other foodstuffs are on their way to help refugees displaced by fighting in Afghanistan. Russia is also sending beds, stoves and diesel generators as part of a humanitarian aid effort approved by President Vladimir Putin.

Russian officials say the flights are part of a permanent air link to the Bagram airbase north of Kabul. The aid is then being taken by truck to the city. The aid shipments come as Russian officials say they've now opened a diplomatic mission in Kabul in a mission that has raised some questions among Afghan locals. In addition to humanitarian aid, military transport planes arrived last week carrying armed guards, 12 years after the Soviet military retreated from its disastrous intervention in Afghanistan.

Russia says the mission in Kabul was invited in by the Northern Alliance, which now controls most of Afghanistan. Moscow has long backed troops of the Alliance in their fight against the Taleban. But diplomats from the United States and other countries have asked Moscow to be cautious in expressing its support for the Alliance, given that delicate negotiations about Afghanistan's political future are underway in Germany.

Russian officials say their ultimate goal is to reconstruct the old Soviet Embassy in Kabul, which lies in ruins after years of warfare. Displaced people now live among the ruins of the building, and will have to be moved to another location.