Tajikistan Frees Jailed Pilots

Posted November 22nd, 2011 at 10:35 am (UTC-5)
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A court in Tajikistan has freed two jailed pilots in a move that is expected to help soothe a diplomatic spat with Russia.

The two pilots, Vladimir Sadovnichy of Russia and Alexey Rudenko of Estonia, were freed Tuesday after the court reduced their sentences and released them for time already served.

Russia detained hundreds of Tajik migrant workers and deported some of them following the pilots' conviction, in apparent retaliation for jailing the pilots. The two were accused of illegally crossing the border and smuggling. They had stopped to refuel in Tajikistan on a flight between Russia and Afghanistan.

Tajikistan's economy relies heavily on the money earned by the hundreds of thousands of Tajik migrants working in Russia. The migrants provide Russia with a cheap source of labor.

Some analysts believe the seriousness of the clash over the pilots was caused by more deeply-seated tensions between Russia and Tajikistan. Russia wants to send more troops to patrol Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan — a move Tajikistan has resisted.