Russia's Putin calls on US, Europe to unfreeze Afghan assets as ties with Taliban strengthen
"We call insistently for compensation for the losses incurred by Afghans during the years of occupation and for the release of illegally frozen Afghan funds," Putin said at a conference in the Kazakh capital Astana.
"In order to calm the situation on Afghan soil, we must, of course, jointly contribute to its economic recovery."
Afghanistan's central bank had more than $9 billion in assets deposited at banks in the United States and Europe when the Taliban seized control of the country in August 2021. Washington immediately froze the $7 billion of these assets that were stored in the US.
In February, US President Joe Biden ordered the $7 billion be released and split between families of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and aid for Afghanistan.
Last month, the US set up an Afghan relief fund with $3.5 billion of the frozen money. The Taliban government will not have access to the fund, which will be held at the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland.
Afghanistan, which has suffered financially for decades, has gone through economic freefall since the Taliban took the helm of the country. The UN Development Fund said last week that ten years of Afghan economic growth had been reversed in the 12 months since the Taliban came to power.
Some countries have pulled the aid they once provided to Afghanistan either entirely or partly, saying that they fear the hardline Islamist group could use the money for nefarious reasons.
As the country hunkers down for a cold, harsh winter, Noorullah Azizi, the Minister of Commerce and Industry for the Taliban-led government, told Bloomberg earlier this week that Kabul was working to build closer trade ties with Russia.
Moscow, reeling under severe western sanctions imposed after its invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, had offered Afghanistan food grains and fuel at a "discounted" rate, Azizi reportedly said.