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Russia in contact with Taliban via embassy in Kabul - diplomat

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By Reuters

By Maria Tsvetkova

MOSCOW -Russia is in contact with Taliban officials via its embassy in Kabul, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative on Afghanistan said on Monday, a day after the Afghan government collapsed and the capital fell to the Islamist insurgent group.

“They are talking in Kabul. All contacts are being made there at the moment. The embassy is dealing with this,” the representative, Zamir Kabulov, told Reuters by telephone in an interview.

The contact began when the Taliban deployed guards to the Russian embassy after the insurgents captured Kabul.

“It went absolutely calmly amd without incident. They (the Taliban) came and took it (the embassy) under guard,” he said.

“Our embassy will stay in contact with specially assigned representatives of the Taliban higher leadership to work out a permanent mechanism of ensuring safety of our embassy,” he said.

Taliban members in traditional shalwar kameez clothing arrived at the embassy on Monday, Russian embassy spokesman Nikita Ishchenko told Reuters by phone from Kabul.

They spoke both Pashto and Dari, the most widely used languages in Afghanistan, he said.

“They replaced representatives of government forces on duty today by disarming them absolutely peacefully and took the place of policemen,” he said.

The comments came as Taliban officials declared the war over and issued statements aimed at calming the panic that has been building in Kabul as the militants, who ruled from 1996 to 2001, routed the U.S.-backed government’s forces.

Western nations were rushing to evacuate staff from their embassies in Kabul. Russia will also pull out some of around 100 employees of its embassy, Kabulov told the Ekho Moskvy radio station in separate comments on Monday.

“A part of our staff will be sent on vacation or evacuated in some other way simply not to create too much of a presence.”

He later told Reuters it would not be an evacuation.

“Some employees will leave for vacation while summer is not over,” he said. He declined to say how many members of the Russian mission would be withdrawn from Afghanistan.

Russia will not rush a decision on whether to recognise the new Afghan authorities, RIA news agency cited Kabulov as saying.

In comments on Ekho Moskvy radio station, the official said that Moscow would watch the action of the new authorities closely and would then make a decision.