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President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian Defense Ministry to begin evacuating its citizens from Kabul as the Kremlin expressed growing concern about the security situation in Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that Moscow had sent four military transport planes to evacuate more than 500 people, including Russians and citizens of Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.
This step came in the wake of US President Joe Biden’s decision Stick to the plan Withdraw all remaining US forces by August 31, in defiance of international pressure from European allies and others to allow more time to evacuate vulnerable foreign nationals and Afghans.
Putin’s order represents a shift in Russia’s position on Taliban control. Kremlin envoys had previously hailed the Islamist group’s takeover of power, describing it as a potential boost to security in the region.
But there are now growing concerns about the insecurity in the Afghan capital, especially after the Taliban on Tuesday closed the road to Kabul airport to Afghans, threaten to cut off Evacuations of those exposed to reprisals from the Islamic movement.
“It is an evolving situation. Time is short. The situation is still very tense,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said.
Taliban officials continued to stress that US forces should leave and that evacuation flights should stop by the end of the month.
Foreign forces must withdraw by the deadline. Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Twitter after a meeting with German diplomats in Doha on Wednesday that it would pave the way for the resumption of civilian flights. “People with legal documents can travel on commercial flights after August 31,” he added, noting that other citizens and some Afghans will be able to leave the country in the future.
Biden, after speaking with G7 leaders on Tuesday, warned that meeting the August 31 deadline would depend on “the Taliban continuing to cooperate and allowing[ing] Access to the airport for those we are transporting abroad, and there is no disruption to our operations.”
He was the president of the United States under pressure From the United Kingdom, France and Germany in particular, to extend the US mission in Afghanistan beyond the end of the month. Referring to security Threats from Isis-K, an affiliated terrorist group, including Kabul Airport, as one of the main factors behind his decision to reject the extension.
More than 82,300 people have been evacuated since August 14 from Afghanistan, according to the White House, all facilitated by the continued presence of US forces. Russia has already accepted about 1,000 Afghans, including Russian passport holders, permanent residents and university students, according to an Afghan diaspora group in Moscow.
The Kremlin said Putin had spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping about the development of the situation. Stressing the importance of preventing instability in Afghanistan from spreading to neighboring regions, the leaders said they would intensify diplomatic efforts bilaterally and through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, an Asian security body dominated by Moscow and Beijing.
The Russian ambassador in Kabul, who last week praised the Islamist group and declared there was “no alternative” to Taliban rule, blamed the United States for the problems at Kabul airport.
International flights have been canceled due to the chaos that the Americans have created at Kabul Airport. We heard that flights should resume in the near future, but so far no guarantees are necessary.
He added that Moscow was working to get a “small group” of embassy staff out of the country, although he described these trips as normal business and vacation trips rather than evacuations.