Boris Johnson has denied personally intervening to authorise the evacuation of dogs from Afghanistan.
The prime minister said claims that he had ordered the controversial airlift himself were “total rhubarb”.
Johnson has come under fresh pressure after the emergence of a leaked email suggesting that the PM had “authorised” the evacuation of animals from former Royal Marine Paul “Pen” Farthing’s Nowzad charity as the Taliban re-took control of the country.
The mission coincided with Operation Pitting, which saw the RAF manage to evacuate thousands of British citizens trapped in Kabul.
Asked about his involvement during a visit to Wales, the PM said: “This whole thing is total rhubarb. I was very proud of what our armed services did with Op Pitting and it was an amazing thing to move 15,000 people out of Kabul in the way that we did.
“I thought it was additionally really good that we were able to help those vets who came out as well.”
Asked if he directly intervened in the process, Johnson replied: “Absolutely not. The military always prioritised human beings and that was quite right, and I think that we should be incredibly proud of Op Pitting and what is achieved.”
The row reignited on Wednesday when the Commons foreign affairs committee published an email in which a Foreign Office official said “the PM has just authorised” the animal evacuation.
Shadow defence secretary John Healey said: “Once again, the Prime Minister has been caught out lying about what he has been doing and deciding.
“He should never have given priority to flying animals out of Afghanistan while Afghans who worked for our armed forces were left behind.”
But on Thursday, the prime minister’s official spokesman said the Foreign Office official who sent the email had been mistaken.
He 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.”
Earlier, work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey said she was “absolutely confident” that the PM played no part in the animal airlift.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.