Russia urges West to release Afghan funds to stem migrants

Moscow (AFP) – The Kremlin has urged Western leaders to unfreeze Afghanistan's assets to fund humanitarian relief and avert an exodus of migrants to Europe fuelled by the Taliban's takeover.


The international community does not recognise the hardline Islamist group, which gained control of Afghanistan in August after foreign troops hastily withdrew from a two-decade deployment.

More than half of Afghanistan's 38 million people are facing food shortages, according to the United Nations, with the winter forcing millions to choose between migration and starvation.

Zamir Kabulov, the Kremlin's envoy to Afghanistan, said that Russia had warned the West its hold on assets and transfers could see thousands of Afghan families "run to Europe this winter".

"The West is afraid of migration flows," he told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

"So let's unfreeze Afghan money. We must do everything we can so there isn't any need for hundreds of thousands of Afghan families to leave the country."

Washington seized nearly $9.5 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank after the Taliban gained control of the country and the aid-dependent economy has effectively collapsed.

Russia since has voiced concerns over the proliferation of terror groups in the country, including the Islamic State group, and warned terror groups planned to infiltrate neighbouring ex-Soviet countries posing as refugees.

Kabulov has previously urged Western countries to engage with the Taliban and for the European Union to re-open its embassy in Afghanistan, warning the country was at risk of descending further into drug trafficking and terrorism.