Russia to fly nationals and allies out of Afghanistan
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.
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.
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.