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Ukraine denies hijacking of evacuation plane in Kabul: report

Ukraine retracts plane hijacking allegation. (Source: Reuters)

KABUL: Ukraine has issued a denial after earlier saying that a plane for evacuating Ukrainian citizens from Afghanistan was hijacked by unidentified people at gunpoint who flew it into Iran.

According to Kiev-based news agency Interfax-Ukraine, Ukraine’s foreign ministry said, “There are no hijacked Ukrainian planes in Kabul or anywhere else. The information about the hijacked plane, which is being circulated by some media outlets, does not correspond to reality.”

It further quoted Oleg Nikolenko, spokesperson of the foreign ministry, as saying that all planes that had left for evacuation from Afghanistan had returned safely, adding that 256 people had been evacuated so far in three flights.

Earlier, Russian News Agency TASS quoted Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Yevgeny Yenin, as saying that armed hijackers seized the plane at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai international airport, where a multinational evacuation is underway ahead of a 31 August deadline for foreign militaries to leave the country set by the Taliban.

“Our plane was hijacked last Sunday by unknown people,” Yenin said. adding, “They were armed, including with firearms. On Tuesday, our plane was effectively stolen – it flew to Iran with an unknown group of passengers onboard instead of carrying out the Ukrainians.”

“Our next three evacuation attempts were also not successful because our people could not get into the airport,” he added. The minister said the hijackers were armed, TASS reported, adding that Yenin did not comment on whether Kiev would be taking measures for the aircraft’s recovery.

He, however, assured that Ukraine’s diplomatic service headed by its foreign minister “had been working in the crash test mode” to evacuate its citizens from Afghanistan.

Chaos at Kabul airport

There have been reports of chaos at the Kabul airport in recent days as countries across the world ramp up efforts to evacuate their citizens from Afghanistan after the Taliban took over the country.

The first reports of the chaos came just a day after Taliban swept into Kabul on August 15. At least five people were killed as thousands packed into the Afghan capital’s airport the next day, rushing the tarmac and pushing onto planes in desperate attempts to flee the country.

US soldiers had fired warning shots as they struggled to manage the chaotic evacuation. More Afghan citizens were later reported dead as they hung off the side of a US military cargo plane in a desperate attempt to leave the country.

On Sunday, the British military acknowledged the deaths of seven civilians in the crowds in Kabul. “Conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible,” the defence ministry said in a statement.