MOSCOW: Russia’s armed forces said they began evacuating more than 500 Russians and citizens of several ex-Soviet states from Afghanistan on Wednesday (25th of August, 2021).
The evacuations were the first made public by Russia, which has taken a cautiously optimistic outlook of the new Taliban leadership in Kabul.
Moscow said it sent four military transport planes to fly out more than 500 citizens of Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.
The evacuations were being organised at the behest of President Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s military said in a statement.
Each plane had drinking water, individual rations and blankets for the evacuees, the statement added.
While Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are members of a Moscow-led security bloc, Ukraine and Russia have had strained ties since Moscow in 2014 annexed Crimea and pro-Russia separatists broke away in the east.
Unlike Western countries, Russia has not evacuated its embassy in Kabul, having secured guarantees of the mission’s protection from the militants.
Last week Russia’s ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov said the Taliban were “engaged in restoring order” in Kabul and were behaving in a “responsible, civilised manner”. It may be recalled that Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday (24th of August, 2021) that US forces are “pawning off” Afghans fleeing the Taliban to neighboring Moscow-allied Central Asia.
During a visit to Hungary, Lavrov said the United States is trying to convince “several Central Asian countries” to take in Afghans who previously worked with US forces in the now Taliban-controlled country.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov alleged that Washington tells the countries the Afghans will only be there temporarily.
“They say it’s for a few months because they need time to make them visas,” Lavrov said at a press conference with his Hungarian counterpart in Budapest.
“Afghans who worked with US forces were probably security checked inside out. Why do you need two more months to give these people a visa?” he asked, accusing the United States of a lack of respect for Central Asian nations.
Around 1,500 Afghans have crossed into neighbouring Uzbekistan after the Taliban takeover and are living in tents near the border, according to the Afghan embassy in Tashkent.
The comments of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov come after Russian leader Vladimir Putin complained last week about Western countries trying to place Afghan refugees in Central Asian countries “before obtaining visas to the United States or other countries.”
Putin has warned against an influx of refugees from Afghanistan, saying militants could enter Russia under the guise of seeking asylum.
Several former Soviet republics in Central Asia share a border both with Afghanistan and Russia, allowing potential militants to reach the country, he told officials on Sunday.
Moscow has been cautiously optimistic about the new leadership in Kabul.
The Kremlin said Tuesday (24th of August, 2021) that it was “attentively watching” the “disagreements” on whether to extend an 31st day of August, 2021 deadline for the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
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