Putin finalising deal with the Taliban as costs of Ukraine invasion mount

Vladimir Putin's officials are finalising a lucrative deal with the Taliban as the costs of Russia's invasion of Ukraine continue to mount.

Habiburahman Habib, the spokesperson for Afghanistan's Ministry of Economy, confirmed that a Taliban delegation was in Moscow finalising contracts for supplies of Russian gas, oil and wheat.

"They are in negotiation with the Russian side," he told Reuters.

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Another Afghan source said that a ministerial delegation visited Russia this month, and that officials from both the Afghan Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Commerce stayed there to work on the deals.

They said: "We are working on [the] text of [the] contract, [we have] almost agreed on gasoline and benzene."

Both Russia and Taliban-led Afghanistan are suffering from economic sanctions imposed on them by international organisations and governments.

Since the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan in August last year, the assets of the country's central bank have been frozen.

Some of the measures brought against Russia have included freezing nearly half of the country's financial reserves, banning their banks from the SWIFT financial transaction system and embargos on Russian oil and coal.

Another source told Reuters there was a plan for how the Taliban would pay Russia, given the sanctions and the fact that no foreign government, including Moscow, officially recognises the Taliban administration.

The source refused to comment on whether that plan involved official banking channels or not.

According to a report from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, oil exports have been a key economic lifeline for Russia despite the sanctions.

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It stated that Russia saw roughly $93billion (£80bn) in revenue from fossil fuel exports during the first 100 days of the invasion, with demand driven primarily by China and India.

"Import volumes fell modestly in May, around 15% compared with the time before the invasion, as many countries and firms shunned Russian supplies," it said.

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