Addressing directly Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Central Asia-Russia summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon said on October 14 that Tajikistan and other countries in the vast region have been treated like outsiders and indicates that the region deserves more investment from Moscow.

“We have always respected the interests of our main strategic partner,” Rahmon said, referring to Russia. “We want respect, too."

Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service says video shows the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan looking on silently.

At one point, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokaev reportedly asks him to stop, but Rahmon refuses, saying, "We came to talk."

Touching on a subject that Putin himself has cited, Rahmon said both he and Putin witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

 Rahmon noted that the neglect of Tajikistan and the other countries of Central Asia, which he said were only used for their raw materials during the Soviet era, was one of the reasons for the collapse.

"Why do we have to beg [Russia to attend] some miserable forum in Tajikistan?" Rahmon asked. "I gave instructions to the Foreign Ministry, I even talked to you to ask [Russia] to attend at least at the ministerial level.  No, at the level of deputy ministers. Is this what Tajikistan deserves, a strategic partner?"

 Rahmon said Central Asian countries are not asking for many investments, adding that Russia should invest and that even billions invested “can be recouped in a very short period.”  He suggested this would be reasonable in light of the Central Asians who travel to Russia to work.

Rahmon is one of Putin’s main allies, and Putin in June made his first public foreign trip since Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine to Dushanbe for talks with Rahmon.

RFE/RL’s Tajik Service says a video of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon’ statement has struck a nerve on social media, where it has been viewed millions of times.  This seven-minute video posted on YouTube has reportedly been viewed around 4 million times.  According to RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, some of the YouTube users who commented on Rahmon’s statement congratulated him for speaking the truth to Putin.  But others criticized Rahmon, who has ruled the tightly controlled former Soviet republic for three decades. Many said if he had provided decent living and working conditions for Tajiks, his relationship with his people would be different and Tajiks would not have to leave the country to find work.