The Taliban is under scrutiny after $1.2 million is reported to have been “stolen” from a Russian private jet that crashed in Afghanistan’s northern Badakhshan province on January 21.
Four out of the six people aboard the Dassault Falcon 10 aircraft survived the crash. The jet was carrying out a medical evacuation from Thailand to Russia, traveling from Utapao airport, near Pattaya, to Moscow via India and Uzbekistan, Russia’s Federal Agency for Air Transport said.
Anna Evsyukova, who was urgently hospitalized in Thailand and was due to continue her treatment in Russia, and her husband Anatoly Evsyukov, were killed in the crash. The survivors arrived from Dubai to Moscow on Friday.
One of the Falcon 10 pilots, Arkady Grachev, said on Friday the crash was caused by “technical problems.” Co-pilot Dmitry Belyakov also said that the cause of the Falcon 10 crash was a technical malfunction, “apparently a problem with the fuel,” state-run news agency Tass reported.
In the aftermath of the crash, the Afghan newspaper Hasht-e Subh reported, citing sources in the region, that $1.2 million was “stolen” from the private jet. The publication reported that Mohammad Ayub Khalid, the Taliban governor for the northeastern Badakhshan province, has ordered an investigation into the matter.
Officially the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban is a military organization and movement in the middle of a civil war in Afghanistan. Founded in 1994, it has at times controlled Afghanistan, once from 1996 to 2001 and then again in 2021.
“The accusation of the Taliban in Badakhshan for stealing this amount of money has caused this group of pilots and three crew members not to hand over the plane to the Russian embassy in Kabul,” Hasht-e Subh reported.
Grachev responded to the reports that more than 1 million had been stolen from the jet.
He said “there was no money there” but said the crew members gave “some small money” to the Afghans as a token of gratitude for assisting them after the jet crash.
“There [was] personal money there… They [the Afghans] came to help, we had to thank them somehow,” he said.
Grachev said that the survivors spent a day and a half in the cold, and had to “burn their shoelaces” to keep warm.
“Then the doctors started to pull us out. We were taken out from a height of 4,000 meters through deep snow, we walked for about five hours to the village,” he said.
Isabel van Brugen is a Newsweek Reporter based in Kuala Lumpur. Her focus is reporting on the Russia-Ukraine war. Isabel joined Newsweek in 2021 and had previously worked with news outlets including the Daily Express,