Russia's Defence Minister Denies Reports That About Hundred Russian Servicemen Are In Kabul

Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov has denied foreign media reports that about a hundred Russian servicemen are in Kabul. He told this to journalists on Tuesday after meeting Cyprus Defence Minister Sokratis Hasikos. Replying to a question if the subject of Afghanistan was raised during the negotiations, Ivanov emphasised that the theme was aired most thoroughly. The minister said that only an advance group of some of Russia's power ministries is in Kabul, which "includes only a few men from the Defence Ministry, "who actually work as military attaches". Ivanov assumed that the foreign media concerned could have mistaken for Russian servicemen the crews of 12 military transport planes, which yesterday delivered humanitarian cargoes and Emergencies Ministry workers to Afghanistan. As the minister emphasised, Russian airmen stayed on Afghanistan's territory for less than five hours. He once again pointed to the high performance standards of Russian military-transport aviation in fulfilling its task. "This operation," he emphasised, "was complicated not only from a military-logistic point of view, but also in diplomatic terms". Before it was undertaken, as Ivanov said, "it was necessary to agree a host of questions both with the American side and with Afghanistan's authorities". In addition, it was necessary "to select a provisional site for the embassy, to see that landing and take-off from an unprepared airfield would be all right, and also to decide on safety for our mission". It was not until all that was done, the minister said, that "the supreme commander-in-chief okayed the operation "which could be carried out in present conditions in Afghanistan by none other than the armed forces". Ivanov also emphasised that the counter-terrorist operation in Afghanistan is "in its first and initial stages and it is a long way to go until victorious communiques appear". He stressed that "in other countries where terrorism is rooted no anti-terrorist operations have even been conceived".