Hamid Karzai

Hamed Karzai, Afghan president set out for Moscow on Thursday for an official visit with the Russian president, Dmitri Medevedev and Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin.

Expanding economic and commercial relations, mutual policies against drug trafficking and discussion of regional issues have been cited as the objectives of the Afghan delegation travelling to Moscow.

Karzai is also scheduled to meet head of Russian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and to give a speech at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian foreign ministry.

The Afghan government delegation will probably discuss purchase of weapons and also sign a number of commercial agreements with their Russian counterparts.

Following the suspension of Iran-Afghanistan commercial relations and the controversial stoppage of Afghan purchased fuel trucks in Iran, the Afghan government has begun talks with Russia with a possible eye on securing petroleum exports from Russia.

Hamid Karzai last travelled to Russia in August to attend a summit between presidents of Russia, Pakistan and Tajikistan.

Russia is one of the top markets for Afghan produced drugs, and according to official reports the number of drug users in Russia in the past 10 years has risen by a factor of ten. Russia also reports 30 to 40 thousand drug related deaths per year.

Russian authorities have repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with Afghan efforts to combat the drug trade. They have also expressed concern about the rising insurgency in the region.