In April, top U.S. military commanders strongly suggested that Russia has been arming the Afghan Taliban, whom the U.S. has been battling since 2001. On Tuesday, CNN presented footage it says backs up those claims. In the videos, two different Taliban factions show off weapons they claim were donated by Russia, in one case to a rival Taliban faction. The weapons — sniper rifles, heavy machine guns, and a variant of the Kalashnikov — have been scrubbed of any identifying marks. Russia has denied earlier reports that it is arming the Taliban.
In one video, a Taliban splinter group near Harat, in western Afghanistan, says the weapons it is displaying were seized from a mainstream Taliban group that attacked it. "These weapons were given to the fighters of Mullah Haibatullah by the Russians via Iran," said the faction's deputy leader, Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi. "The Russians are giving them these weapons to fight ISIS in Afghanistan, but they are using them against us too." The second Taliban group, near Kabul, said they were given the weapons at no cost across the border with Tajikistan, probably from "the Russians."
CNN asked weapons experts from the Small Arms Survey to examine the videos, and the experts said there was nothing concrete to tie the arms to Moscow, though the lack of any identifying marks in itself was a little suspect. "The Russians have said that they maintain contact with the Taliban, we have lots of other reports from other people they are arming the Taliban," Afghan government spokesman Sediq Sediqi tells CNN. "There is no smoke without fire." You can watch the videos and read more about the weapons at CNN.