On Saturday Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov informed journalists that a vanguard group of representatives of the Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry and Ministry of Emergencies which had flown to Afghanistan was sent there according to the agreement reached by Presidents Vladimir Putin and George Bush in Washington. He stated that "the Presidents reached the agreement according to which special representatives or ambassadors at large from Russia, USA and UN would begin consultations in Kabul with the objective to establish a transitional government of Afghanistan to represent all ethnic groups of the country, including Pashtuns". The minister stressed that "it was a principle provision". He reminded that his department was instructed by the President to coordinate the settlement of the situation in Afghanistan and anti-terrorist operations. According to him, Russia provided and would continue providing military and technical aid to the Northern Alliance. The head of the Defense Ministry stated that "in connection with the radically changed situation at the fronts it became necessary to have our representatives in Kabul to coordinate such assistance". He also indicated that in addition to that "we promised to provide assistance in search and rescue operations if necessary" in accordance with the position of Russia made public by the Russian President. Presently the territory controlled by the allies was significantly enlarged and, correspondingly, the issue of expansion of Russia's involvement in this segment of the operation might arise. According to Ivanov, the presence of representatives of the Ministry of Emergencies in the vanguard group was also understa! ! ndable: they would coordinate matters related to expansion of humanitarian aid which would be distributed to significantly larger territories in connection with the Northern Alliance advancement. The minister refuted reports of certain Western mass media of the "military contingent" allegedly accompanying the Russian vanguard group for protection. He stated that "Russia did not send and intended not to send any military contingents to Afghanistan". According to him, the vanguard group was being accompanied by a small physical protection group.
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