(Bloomberg) -- Whistle-blower evidence appears to show Boris Johnson ordered the rescue of animals during the Kabul evacuation in August, contradicting statements that the U.K. prime minister was not involved.

“The PM has just authorized their staff and animals to be evacuated,” reads an internal Foreign Office email submitted to a parliamentary inquiry by a former civil servant, one of several documents published on Wednesday.

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The evacuation, amid scenes of chaos at Kabul airport as Afghans sought to flee Taliban rule, was controversial. Raphael Marshall, a former British civil servant who worked on the Afghan evacuation before later giving evidence to the inquiry, said the decision to fly out 200 animals cost human lives.

Johnson’s office has always said he did not get involved in the process, calling it an operational decision. Asked in a pooled interview in December if he had intervened, Johnson replied: “No, that’s complete nonsense.”

“It remains the case that the prime minister did not instruct officials to take any particular course of action,” Johnson’s spokesman, Max Blain, told reporters at a regular briefing Wednesday when asked about the emails.

It comes at a sensitive time for Johnson, who is battling allegations he and his staff held events during the pandemic that broke coronavirus regulations. His statements to Parliament on the issue are coming under intense scrutiny.

Rescue Animals

The evacuated animals were from a rescue charity called Nowzad run by Pen Farthing, a former member of the U.K.’s Royal Marines.

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While many supported the effort, which Farthing dubbed “Operation Ark,” others were angered that with only hours remaining before the end of U.K. evacuation operation, time and resources were being spent on getting animals -- rather than people -- out of the country.

The allocation of resources to the animal evacuation rather than rescuing Afghans meant “many others would inevitably be left behind who were at risk of murder,” Marshall said in his written testimony to a parliamentary committee. “There was a direct trade-off between transporting Nowzad’s animals and evacuating British nationals and Afghans evacuees.”

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