Ukraine evacuates Dutch citizens from Kabul as Taliban take control

Kabul airport on Monday morning. Photo: AFP/Shakib Rahmani
Kabul airport on Monday morning. Photo: AFP/Shakib Rahmani

Dutch citizens based in Kabul flew out of Afghanistan on Ukrainian military planes on Sunday as the Taliban closed in on the capital.

The Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said on Twitter that his country had removed citizens from Croatia, Belarus and Afghanistan in the rapidly deteriorating situation.

‘We don’t abandon our people and help others,’ he posted. He did not say how many people were on board the plane or whether embassy staff and officials were among them.

The Taliban declared victory on Sunday after storming the presidential palace in Kabul as President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

On Monday morning at least five people were reported to have been killed amid frantic scenes as Afghans tried to board planes heading out of Kabul. US troops said they had fired warning shots into the air ‘to reduce the chaos’.

The American flag was taken down from the US embassy while British defence secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News: ‘I acknowledge that the Taliban are in control of the country’.

Dutch caretaker foreign minister Sigrid Kaag said last week that the Netherlands embassy would stay open as long as possible, but over the weekend it became clear that the security of diplomatic staff could not be guaranteed.

Prime minister Mark Rutte held crisis cabinet talks at the weekend to discuss the rapidly worsening situation in Afghanistan. ‘We will use all the means at our disposal to guarantee the safety of our embassy staff and interpreters,’ he said on Twitter.

Defence minister Ank Bijleveld said a military plane was being sent to Kabul to bring home Dutch citizens, but would not give further details for operational reasons.

Only military aircraft are taking off and landing from Kabul airport and several international airlines, including KLM, have diverted their planes away from Afghan air space.

Taliban spokesman Mohammed Naeem said the ‘war is over’ and promised that people would be allowed to leave the country peacefully.

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