LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson did authorise the evacuation of animals from Kabul during the Western withdrawal from Afghanistan last year, a claim he has previously dismissed as "nonsense", according to government emails released on Wednesday.
Johnson, whose premiership is under immense pressure over allegations of parties at his Downing Street office during COVID-19 lockdowns, has denied any involvement in the decision to help evacuate the cats and dogs of the Nowzad animal rescue charity run by former British soldier Paul "Pen" Farthing.
The pets were rescued amid the chaotic scramble last August to help British nationals and Afghans eligible for resettlement in Britain leave Kabul after it fell to the Taliban.
In an internal government email released by parliament's foreign affairs committee, a foreign office official, whose name is redacted, wrote: "Nowzad, run by an ex-Royal Marine, has received a lot of publicity and the PM has just authorised their staff and animals to be evacuated..."
In another email discussing a different charity's request for help, an official wrote: "In light of the PM's decision earlier today to evacuate the staff of the Nowzad animal charity, the (redacted name) is asking for agreement to the entry of (details redacted) staff, all Afghan nationals."
At the time, Johnson said he had no involvement in the evacuation of Farthing's animals.
"No, that's complete nonsense," he said in December, when asked if he had intervened in the case.
Johnson's spokesman said he had not seen the emails, but repeated that the prime minister had not been involved.
"I know that the defence secretary yesterday made clear that at no stage .. did the prime minister ask him to make way for the pets, that no one jumped the queue and obviously we've made clear previously that the prime minister did not instruct officials to take any particular course of action," he said.
The plight of Farthing and his animals attracted much media attention in Britain, and led to a bitter row with defence minister Ben Wallace who said he could not allow anyone to jump the queue and would not prioritise pets over people.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Alex Richardson)