Russian embassy: Afghan leader fled with cars full of cash

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FILE – In this March 6, 2021 file photo, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, center, inspects an honor guard during the opening ceremony of the new legislative session of the Parliament, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s embattled president left the country Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021, joining his fellow citizens and foreigners in a stampede fleeing the advancing Taliban and signaling the end of a 20-year Western experiment aimed at remaking Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)

MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian embassy in Kabul alleged Monday that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has fled from Kabul with four cars and a helicopter full of cash, Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

The report quoted embassy spokesman Nikita Ishchenko as saying that “the collapse of the regime … is most eloquently characterized by how Ghani escaped from Afghanistan: four cars were filled with money, they tried to shove another part of the money into a helicopter, but not everything fit. And some of the money was left lying on the tarmac.”

Asked by The Associated Press about how he knew the details of Ghani’s departure, Ishchenko said “well, we are working here,” without offering any more details. The AP couldn’t independently verify his claims.

Ghani left Kabul on Sunday as the Taliban swept into the Afghan capital. Media reports suggested that the president went to the neighboring Tajikistan or Uzbekistan, but there was no official confirmation of his whereabouts.

Kremlin envoy on Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov on Monday described Ghani’s flight from Kabul as “disgraceful,” adding that Ghani “deserves to be brought to justice and held accountable by the Afghan people.”

Russia’s ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov told the Ekho Moskvy radio station that, judging by the first 24 hours of the Taliban’s control of the Afghan capital, “right now the situation in Kabul is better than it was under Ashraf Ghani.” “Under the terrorist Taliban it’s better than under Ghani,” Zhirnov said.

Moscow’s criticism of Ghani, whose government had the support of Washington, comes at a time of heightened tensions between Russia and the United States.

Moscow fought a 10-year war in Afghanistan that ended with Soviet troops’ withdrawal in 1989 and has made a diplomatic comeback as a mediator, reaching out to feuding Afghan factions as it has jockeyed with the U.S. for influence in the country.

It has hosted several rounds of talks on Afghanistan, most recently in March, that involved the Taliban — even though Russia has labeled them a terrorist organization.

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