Tajikistan has summoned Russia’s ambassador after police allegedly beat and interrogated more than 100 Tajik students at a university in Russia’s Far East, the foreign ministry said.
It marked a rare instance of discord between Tajikistan, the poorest of Central Asia’s ex-Soviet republics, and Russia, on which it is still economically reliant.
The incident occurred on May 19 at a state university in Komsomolsk-on-Amur in Russia’s Far East, but details remained unclear.
The Tajik foreign ministry said on Wednesday that more than 100 students “were subjected to interrogation and harsh treatment” by law enforcement officers at the university dorm early in the morning.
Such actions “do not correspond to the spirit of Tajik-Russian strategic cooperation,” the foreign ministry said in its statement.
The Tajik envoy for human rights said on Wednesday that “illegal action” by agents from Russia’s OMON anti-riot police and the FSB security service led to the hospitalization of several students and called on his Russian counterpart to conduct a probe to determine what happened.
The university said only “four Tajik students were arrested after having hindered the work of law enforcement.”
A former colonial power in Central Asia, Russia remains a destination of choice for work and study for many residents of ex-Soviet republics in the region. Many often encounter discrimination, racism and police harassment in Russia, according to rights activists.
According to statistics, some 500,000 Tajik nationals, out of a population of 10 million people, entered Russia in the first quarter of 2023, most of them for work.
Remittances from Tajiks working in Russia make up more than a third of Tajikistan’s GDP, according to World Bank data.
As the conflict in Ukraine drags on, Russia’s army and the Wagner paramilitary group have expanded their recruitment operations to target migrants inside Russia.
Over the past few months, dozens of Central Asian nationals have been killed in Ukraine, according to local media.