Russia’s armed forces began evacuating more than 500 Russians and citizens of several ex-Soviet states from Afghanistan on Wednesday.
The evacuations were the first to be made public by Russia, which has a cautiously optimistic view of the new Taliban leadership in Kabul.
Moscow said it dispatched four military transport planes to fly out more than 500 citizens from Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.
The evacuations were organized at the behest of President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the Russian military said in a statement.
Each plane had drinking water, individual rations and blankets for the evacuees, the statement said.
While Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are members of a Moscow-led security bloc, Ukraine and Russia have had strained relations since Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 and pro-Russian separatists split off in the east.
In contrast to Western countries, Russia did not evacuate its embassy in Kabul as it guaranteed the mission’s protection from the militants.
Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan, Dmitri Zhirnov, said last week that the Taliban are “working to restore order” in Kabul and are “responsible and civilized”.
But on Tuesday the Kremlin suggested that some of the embassy staff’s families – women and children – may have been evacuated from Afghanistan.
Russia has turned to the Taliban in recent years and is seeking contact with the group in order to prevent the instability from spreading to Central Asia, where Moscow has military bases.
While some countries welcome Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban, Putin warned of an influx into Russia and said militants could enter the country on the pretext of seeking asylum.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)