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Putin slams West’s policy in Afghanistan, says Russia doesn’t want militants disguised as refugees

The file photo shows Afghans on the tarmac of Kabul airport.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denounced the West’s policy of sending people who have been evacuated from Afghanistan to neighboring Central Asian countries, stressing that he doesn’t want the militants to sneak into the region under the guise of refugees following the Taliban takeover of the conflict-ridden nation.

Putin made the remarks on Sunday, after some Western countries put forward the idea of relocating refugees from Afghanistan to countries near Russia while their visas  to the United States and Europe are being processed.

"Our Western partners are persistently raising the question of placing refugees in Central Asian countries before obtaining visas to the United States or other countries," he told a meeting of officials of the ruling United Russia party, adding, "But who is among these refugees? How can we know?"

"Does that mean that they can be sent without visas to those countries, to our neighbors, while they themselves (the West) don't want to take them without visas?" the TASS news agency quoted him as saying.

"Why is there such a humiliating approach to solving the problem?" he said.

Putin further noted that "we don't want militants showing up here under cover of refugees," stressing that Russia, which allows visa-free travel for residents of ex-Soviet Central Asian countries, opposes the idea.

Putin estimated that "hundreds, even hundreds of thousands, or maybe even millions" of people might want to flee Afghanistan.

He added that former Soviet republics in Central Asia share a border both with Afghanistan and Russia, which could allow "militants under the guise of refugees" to reach Russia.

This comes as the Reuters news agency reported last week that the United States has held secret talks with a number of countries in a desperate attempt to secure deals to temporarily house at-risk Afghans who worked for the US government.

Following the withdrawal of US-led forces from Afghanistan, the Taliban militant group intensified offensives and rapidly overran major cities. Last Sunday, it laid siege to Kabul, forcing the then-sitting Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, to flee the country.

The unfolding events culminated in chaotic scenes the following day, with thousands of Afghan civilians and diplomats swarming the Kabul airport, hoping to find seats on flights leaving the country. Some local Afghans tried to hop onto moving planes.

Amid the uncertain political and security situation, many governments rushed to evacuate their citizens and diplomatic personnel from Afghanistan.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that Moscow was in favor of Afghan national dialog involving all Afghan political forces, and also welcomed the Taliban's recent statement that they were ready for such dialog.

The top Russian diplomat expressed his country's readiness to resume the "Moscow format" of talks on Afghanistan, saying that in addition to intra-Afghan forces, all the five countries of Central Asia, along with China, Pakistan, India, and Iran as well as the United States had participated in the Moscow format negotiations in the past.

Russia began hosting the "Moscow format" consultations on Afghanistan in April 2017 with the aim of facilitating a national reconciliation process and securing peace in the conflict-ridden country.

In their first official news briefing since their lightning seizure of Kabul, the Taliban said on Tuesday that they wanted peaceful ties with other countries.

The US military led the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 in what it proclaimed was a war on terror meant to eradicate the Taliban.

Twenty years on, a hasty withdrawal resulted in the Taliban takeover of the country.

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