Russian diplomats in Kabul feel safe and are continuing to work in the wake of the capital’s takeover by the Taliban, Moscow’s envoy to Afghanistan told RT, adding that the US had been “tilting at windmills” for 20 years.
“The situation is calm,” the Russian ambassador to Kabul, Dmitry Zhirnov, told RT on Monday, as he described the developments in the Afghan capital a day after its takeover by Taliban militants as seen from the Russian mission’s compound. The diplomats feel in no immediate danger, he said, denying reports of an evacuation.
Earlier, some media outlets reported that Russia was reducing the number of its diplomats in Kabul, but Zhirnov says the embassy continues to operate “in full force.” Some staff members have left on a “planned vacation,” while others have departed because their assignment had ended, but the rest of the staff are working as normal.
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The diplomatic mission’s security has been taken over by a group of Taliban fighters, after the Afghan police detail was disbanded by their own volition. The Taliban fighters met with the embassy staff on Monday morning and assured the diplomats that they would be safe.
On Sunday, when Kabul was about to fall into the hands of the militants, the city descended into chaos, amid “disorder and a power vacuum,” the ambassador said. Marauders and criminals were roaming the city streets, and gunfire was heard near the embassy.
However, soon after the Taliban entered the city in numbers, lawless shooting on the streets gradually subsided, Zhirnov said. Earlier on Monday, Afghanistan’s envoy to the UN, Ghulam Isaczai, said at a UN Security Council meeting that there had been “reports of target[ed] killings and looting in the city” after it fell under the Taliban control. Zhirnov did not comment on these reports.
The Russian ambassador said the Taliban apparently intended to clamp down on criminality because it had imposed a curfew and published “hotline” numbers that locals could use to report crimes to the militants. The situation in the city was currently “safer than before the Taliban,” he added.
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Zhirnov added that around 50 Russian citizens of Afghan descent had asked the embassy to facilitate their return to Russia. None of them had reported being subject to any threats from the Taliban, however, he said.
Speaking about the Taliban’s blitzkrieg-style takeover of Afghanistan, which had allowed the militants to seize all major cities within a few weeks, the Russian ambassador said the US strategy was at least partly to blame.
The US had, for years, been “tilting at windmills” for domestic-PR purposes, Zhirnov opined. America’s actions, including bombings that led to civilian casualties, had provoked resentment among the local population, which increasingly considered the US’ and NATO’s presence on Afghan soil to be an occupation.
Meanwhile, the Taliban had been cultivating the common folks for popular support, the diplomat said. The widespread corruption in which the now-ousted government allegedly engaged did not help matters either, Zhirnov believes.
The embassy is “working to facilitate the peace process” and wants to see a “civilized Afghanistan without drugs and terrorism, where human rights are observed,” Zhirnov said.
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