By Lorenz Duchamps
The former president of Afghanistan reportedly fled the country with four vehicles and a helicopter “full of money” as Taliban insurgents closed in and took control of the nation’s capital, according to Russian embassy staff in Kabul.
President Ashraf Ghani, whose current whereabouts are unknown, confirmed in a statement on Aug. 15 that he fled the Middle Eastern nation, explaining that leaving “the dear country” he dedicated his life to over the past 20 years was a “hard choice,” but Taliban forces left him with few options.
“I came across a hard choice; I should stand to face the armed Taliban who wanted to enter the palace or leave the dear country that I dedicated my life to protecting,” Ghani said, adding that he also wanted to avoid bloodshed.
The Russian embassy alleged, as quoted saying by state news agency RIA Novosti, the president evacuated the palace along with four cars “full of money” and a helicopter.
“As for the collapse of the [outgoing] regime, it is most eloquently characterized by the way Ghani fled Afghanistan,” Nikita Ishchenko, a spokesman for the embassy, was quoted as saying by the Russian state agency.
“Four cars were full of money, they tried to stuff another part of the money into a helicopter, but not all of it fit. And some of the money was left lying on the tarmac,” he claimed.
The spokesman, Nikita Ishchenko, confirmed the comments to Reuters, citing “witnesses” as the source of his information. Reuters reported that it could not independently confirm the accuracy of his account immediately.
The seizure of the Afghan capital on Aug. 15 prompted many nations globally, including the United States and Germany, to evacuate citizens and diplomats, but Russia only partially evacuated staff in Kabul and is preparing direct talks with the designated terror group.
On Monday, a special representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin said its ambassador to Afghanistan will meet with Taliban leaders on Tuesday and will evaluate whether it will give the terrorist group legitimate authority, noting that Russia will not rush its decision.
“We will carefully see how responsibly they govern the country in the near future. And based on the results, the Russian leadership will draw the necessary conclusions,” Zamir Kabulov, the presidential envoy to Afghanistan told Ekho Moskvy radio station.
Kabulov also pointed out that Russian embassy officials are unclear how much money government officials have left behind as they fled the capital.
“I hope the government that has fled did not take all the money from the state budget. It will be the bedrock of the budget if something is left,” Kabulov told the Russian radio station.
Reuters contributed to this report.