Russia is reportedly supplying powerful new weapons to the Northern Alliance that is fighting the Taleban in Afghanistan. The weaponry is said to include tanks and armored personnel carriers.

A spokesman for Russia's defense ministry says the fighters will receive substantial military help, although he did not go into detail. However, the Interfax news agency reports that Russia will send 40 tanks and around 100 armored fighting vehicles and personnel carriers to the alliance.

The equipment will come out of storage and is expected to be sent to northern Afghanistan before the end of the year. The estimated value of the equipment is about $45 million (US). Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to send more aid during a meeting he held with ousted Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani in Tajikistan last week.

Russia supports the Northern Alliance in its fight against the Taleban. Moscow accuses the hardline Afghan group of spreading Islamic fundamentalism throughout central Asia, an area it considers of vital strategic importance. After last month's terrorist attacks in the United States, Mr. Putin offered to assist the U.S.-led coalition in the fight against terrorism, including providing more weapons for the alliance.

The tanks and vehicles are expected to be sent into Afghanistan from Tajikistan, where about 15,000 Russian troops are based near the Afghan border. The equipment may be useful as the alliance attacks Taleban positions in the north, especially the strategic city of Mazar-i-Sharif. But there will not be enough time to move the tanks south to the main front near Kabul before winter snows close off mountain passes in central Afghanistan.