Shortly after the bombing strikes began in Afghanistan Russia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement of support for the fight against terrorism. President Vladimir Putin also called together his top security ministers to monitor the situation in Afghanistan.

President Putin received a phone call from President Bush shortly before the bombing strikes began against targets in Afghanistan. Soon after, the Russian leader convened a meeting of senior Cabinet ministers at his residence outside Moscow.

Officials say Russia's air defense command did not receive any special orders related to the bombing operation. But the country's armed forces have been in a state of alert since the terrorist attacks against the U.S. last month.

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing strong support for the operation, saying all necessary means must be used to fight terrorism as an evil which threatens humanity.

The statement blamed the Taleban for allowing Afghanistan to become a center for international terrorists, who have committed crimes against many countries - including Russia.

This was a reference to Chechnya, a region where the Kremlin says it's battling terrorism.

Some Chechen commanders do have apparent links with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network although most observers say the Chechen conflict is mostly a fight for independence.

Mr. Putin has been a strong supporter of the U.S.-led coalition, winning praise from Western leaders and a softening of their criticism about the Chechnya campaign.

Moscow has agreed to send weapons and supplies to the anti-Taleban fighters in northern Afghanistan, and provide humanitarian aid to civilians.

Mr. Putin also helped lobby Central Asian leaders to allow U.S. forces to use bases in their countries.

One thousand U.S. troops are now in Uzbekistan, which shares a border with Afghanistan.