Russia starts evacuations from Afghanistan

Russia’s armed forces said on Wednesday that they had begun evacuating more than 500 Russians and citizens of several ex-Soviet states from the war-torn country following the deterioration of the security situation after the US retreat from Afghanistan and the subsequent fall of the Kabul government into Taliban hands.

The armed forces said they had sent four military transport planes to fly out more than 500 citizens of Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine.

The evacuations were the first made public by Russia, which has taken a cautious stance toward the new Taliban leadership in Kabul.

Separately, the Russian government said it planned to request flights out of Afghanistan in September for Afghan students who wanted to study in Russia.

Russia has designated the Taliban as a terrorist group.

President Vladimir Putin has warned against letting “terrorists” sneak into neighboring countries from Afghanistan, including “under the guise of refugees.” Despite the security concerns, Russia has also announced its opposition to plans by the United States to deploy troops to the Central Asia region following the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that Moscow did not want to see American troops in the Central Asian countries and to the south of Russia’s border as the measure would make the region a target for militant attacks.

Meanwhile, Russia has launched joint military exercises in Tajikistan and has reinforced its base there.

Russian Interfax news agency cited sources in Russia’s Defense Ministry as saying that for the joint military drills, which will last one month, Moscow had deployed a number of T-72 tanks to Tajikistan’s mountains to practice long-range firing at moving targets.

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