MOSCOW/DUSHANBE – Personnel of the Russian 201st Military Base in Tajikistan conducted military exercises at the Lyaur testing ground, 40 kilometers from Dushanbe.
“The experience of conducting military operations in modern armed conflicts was practiced during the exercise,” the press service of the Central Military District reported.
According to the scenario, the enemy was an armed (presumably terrorist) group of up to 40 people. Mechanized units using BTR-82A armored personnel carriers worked out the organization of interaction and the conduct of combined arms combat in the highlands in both offense and defense.
Military personnel improved their skills in tactical, special and military medical training. The training scenario was further complicated by various improvised tasks and took place in an environment of active use of electronic warfare suppression means by the “enemy”.
“Maneuvers such as bypassing the enemy, as well as predicting their intentions, while also transferring and concentrating sustained fire, as well as firing at individual targets were conducted,” Alexander Solosin, commander of a motorized rifle platoon stated.
The maneuvers involved more than 500 troops and more than 150 pieces of equipment.
Prior to the infantry assault, Mi-8 helicopter crews used rockets and bombs in a tactical assault on the “enemy positions” at the Lyaur firing range. The helicopter pilots used 100-kilogram high-explosive fragmentation bombs, and unguided cumulative-fragmentation and armor-piercing rockets to destroy targets imitating armored vehicles.
The 201st Military Base in Tajikistan is Russia’s largest military facility outside its borders. It is located in the broader districts of Dushanbe and Bokhtar and will continue to operate on the territory of Tajikistan at least until 2042, according to the agreement Moscow and Dushanbe signed in 2012.
The base has been in Tajikistan since 1945 when the then 201st Rifle Division was deployed in the former Soviet republic. As part of the Central Asian Military District, the division participated in the Soviet deployment to Afghanistan in December 1979, when it entered the country along with the 40th Army. It was stationed in Kunduz Province.
The division used BMP-1 and BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, BTR-60 and BTR-70 armored personnel carriers, T-62 tanks, as well as the Gvozdika 122mm self-propelled guns. The last Soviet vehicle to leave Afghanistan on 15 February 1989 was a BTR-60 from the 201st. The APC is still kept to the present day as a memorial.
After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the newly independent Tajikistan plunged into a bloody civil war in 1992. While most of the conscripts raised in Tajikistan were discharged, their Russian officers kept control of the division’s equipment after its subunits were reinforced with Russian Spetsnaz troops.
In September 1992, the division was reinstated under firm Russian control. The newly-formed Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) formed the Collective Peacekeeping Force in Tajikistan, and the 201st formed its core.
The 201st Motor Rifle Division, supported by loyal Tajik forces, pushed Wahhabi terrorists back and launched a counterattack supported by ground attack aircraft and attack helicopters. Russian and Tajik forces soon recaptured key cities. Major concentrations of Islamist rebels were defeated and neutralized by 1997. The division’s sapper battalion also participated in border region mine clearance operations.
Interestingly, at one point during the civil war in Tajikistan, soldiers of the 201st Motor Rifle Division safely escorted staff of the US Embassy in Dushanbe to the airport for evacuation. This marks the only time in history that Americans have officially asked for and been given protection by the Russian military.
In 2001 the division was deployed to the Tajik border with Afghanistan in expectation of the US invasion of Afghanistan, and possible attempts by the Taliban to cross the border into Tajikistan. During most of the 2000s, the 201st Motor Rifle Division participated in joint exercises with the Tajik military.
In October 2004, it was finally renamed the 201st Military Base. In October 2012, an agreement was signed on extending the term of deployment of the Russian military base until 2042. About 100 units of new equipment, mostly BTR-82A APCs, T-72B1 tanks, as well as a Borisoglebsk-2 EW system and a Garmony air defense radar, plus the Silok anti-drone EW complexes were delivered between 2016 and 2018.
The total strength of the base (2019):
- 7,000 men
- 100 tanks
- 300 armored personnel carriers
- 55 artillery pieces
- 1,100 other vehicles
- 10 helicopters
- 5 ground-attack aircraft
A Russian-Tajik joint military exercise
Additionally, a battalion armed with Orlan-10 drones was deployed in 2019, as well as the first-ever divisional set of the S-300PS air defense systems, which entered combat duty on Saturday, 26 October 2019, the Central Military District’s press-service stated in a report to TASS.