BORIS Johnson's government is today scrambling to deny claims that he personally intervened to save animals before people in Afghanistan.

The PM says it is "total rhubarb" to say that he acted on behalf of cat and dog charity Nowzad in the chaotic final evacuation from Afghanistan in August.

That's despite leaked emails from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) that state otherwise.

An official sent a message saying the PM had "authorised" the airlift.

During a visit to Conwy in North Wales, Johnson told broadcasters: "This whole thing is total rhubarb."

And his official spokesman said: "It's not uncommon in Whitehall for a decision to be interpreted or portrayed as coming directly from the Prime Minister even when that's not the case and it's our understanding that's what happened in this instance. We appreciate it was a frenetic time for those officials dealing with this situation."

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When askied if he was suggesting the Foreign Office official was mistaken, he replied: "I can't say individually which official but that's our understanding of what happened."

Meanwhile, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told Sky News: "The PM didn't make any individual decisions about evacuations.

"A lot of people will claim that the PM is involved in supporting their particular pet projects but the PM said he wasn't involved in individual decisions, that is what the Defence Secretary, who was in charge of Operation Pitting overall, has said as well."

And Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg described calls for a debate on the issue as "fussing about a few animals".

But a previously leaked letter showed Conservative MP Trudy Harrison, then parliamentary private secretary to Johnson, wrote to Nowzad founder Paul "Pen" Farthing on August 25 to inform him the evacuation could go ahead.

And whistleblower Raphael Marshall said No 10's claim she was acting in her capacity as a constituency MP is "not credible" and such a request "would have been disregarded."

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In another development, Harrison admitted contacting a private charter company in a bid to secure a plane to transport Nowzad's staff and animals.

She's now said she was responding "to many Copeland constituents' requests to assist" the animals.

And Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: "The claims that have been made and emails from the Foreign Office, who were not responsible for the actual evacuation operation, I don't know where they come from but they certainly don't show the reality, which was: I was in charge, the Prime Minister never asked me, it was nonsense."

Dominic Dyer, an ally of Farthing, previously said he spoke with ministers and Johnson's wife Carrie to "put pressure on him" over the evacuation. He's now said he feels "vindicated" by the leaked emails, stating: "I'm not certain why he didn't feel he could explain his involvement in August at the end of this operation."

In a statement, Nowzad said it was "appalled to find ourselves at the centre of a political media debate on who did what and when in relation to Operation Ark", adding: "As a charity, we had no oversight of any communication between any government departments relating to who authorised the call forward of the Nowzad staff."