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Russia TV investigates "secret recruitment" for Afghan war in Russia
Source: Russia TV, Moscow, in Russian 1700 gmt 18 Nov 01

Russian veterans of the Afghan war, as well as Afghans now living in Russia, are reportedly being recruited to fight in Afghanistan "on the side of the Americans", Russia TV has reported. The report concluded it was not clear whether US staff were involved in the recruitment, or it was a sting operated by unscrupulous dealers seeking to make money. The following are excerpt from the report broadcast on 18 November

[Presenter] It has become known that recruitment of mercenaries for the Afghan war is proceeding apace in Russia. Who is behind it? Svetlana Gubanova has managed to find the recruiters' trail even in Moscow.

[Correspondent] This man is 40, he is an officer of the reserve. He has asked us not to show his face and not to name him. He spent over five years fighting in Afghanistan in the Soviet spetsnaz [special troops]. He says there was not a single garrison he did not visit.

He also says he will soon go to fight in Afghanistan again - this time on the side of the Americans. It only remains for him to conclude a contract.

[Unidentified man, face obscured] It would be nice to be certain of one's future, the future of one's family.

[Correspondent] The man has assured us that in order to fill in the forms to fight in the Afghan war he went to a certain office not far from the US embassy.

I am holding two business cards. One gives the name of military attache Kevin McGrath, the other, the name of his aide, Christopher (?Ton). Both were left at least at two different organizations - one that deals with military specialists from the Afghan diaspora and one that has contacts with Russians that once fought in the Afghan war.

The US embassy has refused to provide any official comments on this, but we have found a man who maintains he has had contacts with the Americans in Moscow. He is the former governor of the Konar province, Gen Gulam Mohammad [transliterated]. The Americans asked him to provide information on 200 generals and 15,000 cadre officers of the Interior Ministry and state security who have found refuge in Russia. He refused, but he is certain that he was not the only one approached.

[Gulam Mohammad, captioned as Afghan diaspora leader] I am sure they have already received some information. Otherwise they would not have approached the Afghans. So I think they are quite aware of the contingent now in Russia.

[Correspondent] The Taloka public organization has on its files 3,000 Afghan war veterans. The organization is headed by Vladimir Shamanov. He is prepared to confirm that secret recruitment into the US army is still going on. Several underground recruitment offices operate in Moscow, as well as in St Petersburg and in Ukraine.

[Correspondent, to Shamanov] You are saying [there are offices in] Odintsovo and Poklonnaya Gora [Moscow suburbs]. Where else?

[Vladimir Shamanov, captioned as head of the Taloka public organization of Afghan war veterans] In the rear of- well, if you look at the US embassy, it is on the left-hand side, quite close. [Passage omitted: Shamanov speaking off microphone, all indistinct.]

[Correspondent] There is a chain operating among the mercenaries. Any stranger immediately rouses suspicion...

Guards outside the US embassy become irritated when asked about recruitment of former servicemen. They are tired of explaining that the embassy is not engaged in any recruitment.

[Correspondent, to embassy guard] Do many people ask you about it?

[Guard] Loads! They are drawn by promises of allegedly huge wages. Not just Muscovites - there have been visitors from Tula, Ryazan and Pskov. They all went back with nothing to show for their efforts.

[Correspondent] Today no-one can still say for certain if the Americans are recruiting former Soviet officers and soldiers for Afghanistan. Or maybe someone simply decided to use the situation and make a profit out of Afghan veterans' plight, promising them a great reward in a faraway country they still have to reach - for money.

[Presenter] It is worth noting that Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov ruled out the existence of official recruitment stations in Russia in his interview to our programme. Moreover, he pointed out that the criminal code sees the recruitment of mercenaries as a criminal offence.

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