The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry denied media reports claiming that armed group kidnapped a passenger jet meant to evacuate people fleeing Afghanistan to Ukraine.
The reports quoted deputy foreign minster Yevhen Yenin as saying that the plane was diverted to Iran by armed attackers.
“Our plane was hijacked last Sunday by [unknown] people,” Yenin told Ukrainian public radio.
“On Tuesday, a group stole our plane. It flew to Iran with an unknown group of passengers onboard instead of carrying out the Ukrainians.”
However, ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko confirmed that all Ukrainian planes are safe.
A Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesperson later denied the claim, telling the local internet television station, Hromadske, that Yenin was trying to describe the difficulties faced by Ukrainian pilots during the evacuation of Kabul.
For its part, Iran has denied the report, saying that the Kyiv-bound plane refueled in the Iranian city of Mashhad during its journey from Kabul to the Ukrainian capital.
Evacuation Process Continued
Ukraine has evacuated 256 citizens on three flights.
However, there are still about 50 more Ukrainian citizens in Kabul who are seeking to return home.
Fears of New Refugee Crisis
Numbers of Afghan refugees in Europe have been more than doubled over the past week.
But this has sparked fear of a new refugee crisis similar to 2015 Syrian refugee plight.
UNHCR says that at least 120,000 Afghans have fled rural areas to Kabul province since the beginning of the year.
But, the vast majority of them remain trapped within the country’s borders.
“We are not currently seeing a large exodus of refugees from Afghanistan,” a spokesman told The Guardian.
Migration experts warned that recent memories of the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015, and the perception that Europe failed to achieve it, are preventing European states from crafting a proactive rescue plan.
“In 2021, states are controlling their borders with force and brutality in the way they were not in 2015.”
Turkey is reinforcing its border with Iran. Meanwhile, Pakistan is about to complete a fence along the border with Afghanistan.