Tajikistan has denied a statement by the head of US forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, about smuggling Russian weapons into Afghanistan across its border as ‘baseless.’

In a statement released on March 26, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan “the groundless statement made by Gen John Nicholson, the Head of the US forces in Afghanistan, in his exclusive interview to the BBC (on 23 March 2018) on the allegedly deliveries of weapons to the Taliban movement across the border of Tajikistan is deeply regrettable.”

The statement by the Tajik MFA notes that Tajikistan has never recognized the legitimacy of the Taliban Movement, and, being a supporter of measures for early peaceful settlement of the Afghan conflict, has never provided its territory to the third countries for implementation of such actions contrary to the fundamental approaches and the principle position of the country on  issues of peace and security.

Meanwhile, the head of US forces in Afghanistan told the BBC in an exclusive interview on March 23 that Russia is supporting and even supplying arms to the Taliban.  General John Nicholson said he'd seen "destabilizing activity by the Russians."

He said Russian weapons were smuggled across the Tajik border to the Taliban, but could not say in what quantity.

Russia has denied such US allegations in the past, citing a lack of evidence.  A statement from the Russian Embassy in Kabul dismissed the comments as "idle gossip", repeating previous denials by Russian officials.

"Once again, we insist that such statements are absolutely baseless and appeal to officials not to talk nonsense," the Embassy said.

U.S. commanders, including Nicholson, have said on several occasions over the past year that Russia may be supplying arms to the Taliban although no confirmed evidence has so far been made public.

Russian officials have said that their limited contacts with the Taliban were aimed at encouraging peace talks and ensuring the safety of Russian citizens.  Moscow has offered to help coordinate peace talks in Afghanistan.

Taliban officials have told Reuters that the group has had significant contacts with Moscow since at least 2007, adding that Russian involvement did not extend beyond "moral and political support".