Russia to fly nationals and allies out of Afghanistan

Russia to fly out nationals, allies from Afghanistan after Taliban takeover
2 min read
26 August, 2021
The Russian evacuation effort appears to be a departure from Moscow's earlier view on the Taliban being a possible counter to IS and other jihadist groups.
Russia is to bring over 500 of its nationals and others out [Aykut Karadag/Anadolu Agency/Getty]

Russia is starting to fly nationals out of Afghanistan amid growing concerns over the security situation in Kabul and more than a week after Western countries did the same.

The Russian ministry of defence was told to begin the evacuation process by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, as tens of thousands of Europeans, Americans, Afghans and other nationalities are being flown out.

Russia is the latest in a long list of countries to conduct evacuations out of Kabul airport following the Taliban insurgents' deposing of the internationally recognised Afghan government earlier this month.

Four armed forces transport aircraft were set to bring over 500 Russians, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Belarusians and others out, according to a Wednesday statement from Moscow's defence ministry.

This comes as President Joe Biden elected to continue with the 31 August deadline to get the rest of the American forces in Afghanistan out, despite pleas from allies such as the UK and Germany for an extension.

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The Russian evacuation effort is a departure from Moscow's earlier view that the Taliban's seizing of Afghanistan could help combat the Islamic State group and other militant threats in Central Asia and surrounding areas.

However, anxieties have risen following the self-styled Islamic Emirate's decision to shut off the route to Kabul airport on Tuesday to Afghans, the FT said.

Spokesperson for the Russian presidency, Dmitry Peskov, explained: "It's a developing situation. Time is tight. The situation remains very tense."

On Wednesday, a spokesman for Afghanistan's new Islamist rulers turned to Twitter to reiterate that the 31 August withdrawal cut-off must be stuck to.

Who's who of the Taliban?
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Suhail Shaheen recounted discussions the Taliban held with Germany's Afghanistan envoy in Qatar on Tuesday.

He wrote: "The [Taliban] delegation said foreign troops should withdraw by the deadline.

"It will pave the way for [the] resumption of civilian flights.

"People with legal documents can travel through commercial flights after 31 August."

Airlifts at Kabul airport have brought more than 82,300 Afghans and foreign nationals from Afghanistan starting on 14 August, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday, per Reuters reporting.