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Russia denies supplying weapons to Afghanistan’s Taliban

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that Moscow has never delivered weapons to the Taliban movement in Afghanistan, countering U.S. allegations.

Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova rejected the claim by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said Wednesday that he had repeatedly raised the issue during his talks with the Russians.

“Russia has only supplied weapons to the legitimate government of Afghanistan, which is well known,” Zakharova said at a briefing.

On Wednesday, Pompeo said that “the Russians have been selling small arms that have put Americans at risk there for 10 years.”

He added: “When I meet with my Russian counterparts, I talk with them about this each time: ‘Stop this.’”

Russia, which has long been critical of the U.S.-led operation in Afghanistan, welcomed February’s peace deal between the U.S. and the Taliban aimed at ending the protracted war.

Zakharova didn’t comment Thursday on reports that Moscow offered bounties for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but other Russian officials have denounced them as fake.

Earlier this week, Zamir Kabulov, a top Russian diplomat who serves as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s representative on Afghanistan, described the bounty allegations as a reflection of the U.S. political infighting, and charged that they could have been spread by “forces that don’t want to leave Afghanistan and are willing to justify their failure.”

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