Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country with four vehicles and a helicopter full of cash, the Russian embassy in Kabul said Monday.
The embattled leader left the presidential palace in Kabul on Sunday to the insurgent Taliban fighters who had toppled his government.
“To avoid bloodshed, I thought it would be better to leave,” Ghani, 72, said on Facebook in his first comments after his departure.
The former World Bank academic — who holds a doctorate from New York City’s Columbia University — didn’t say where he was going, but Al Jazeera reported later that he had flown to Uzbekistan.
“As for the collapse of the (outgoing) regime, it is most eloquently characterized by the way Ghani fled Afghanistan,” Nikita Ishchenko, a Russian embassy spokesman in Kabul, was quoted as saying by Russian state-owned news outlet RIA, Reuters reported.
“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,” Ishchenko was quoted as saying.
The spokesman confirmed his comments to Reuters, citing “witnesses” as the source of his information. Reuters said it could not independently confirm the accuracy of his account immediately.
Zamir Kabulov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special representative on Afghanistan, said earlier it was unclear how much money the fleeing government would leave behind.
“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 Moscow’s Ekho Moskvy radio station, according to Reuters.
On Monday, Russia said its ambassador to Afghanistan will meet with the Taliban on Tuesday and that Moscow will decide whether to recognize the new government based on its conduct.
“Our ambassador is in contact with the Taliban leadership, tomorrow he will meet with the Taliban security coordinator,” Foreign Ministry official Zamir Kabulov told Ekho Moskvy radio station on Monday, according to AFP.
He said the talks between Ambassador Dmitry Zhirnov and the Taliban would center on how the group plans to provide security for the Russian embassy in Kabul.