Moscow to evacuate Russian citizens from Syria
on 21/01/2013 18:36:33
The move suggests Moscow is growing doubtful that Syrian president Bashar Assad can cling to power in the face of an armed uprising.
The Emergency Situations Ministry said two planes are scheduled to fly to Beirut tomorrow to carry more than 100 Russians out of Syria.
Russia has been the main ally of Assad since the start of the conflict in the Arab state in March 2011, using its veto power at the United Nations Security Council to shield Damascus from international sanctions.
But it has recently begun to distance itself from the Syrian ruler, signalling that it might be resigned to him losing power.
Russia's Foreign Ministry has said it has contingency plans in place to evacuate thousands of Russians from Syria. Officials said planes and sea vessels could be used in the effort.
A squadron of Russian navy ships is in the Mediterranean for a planned exercise near Syrian shores later this month. Military officials said earlier that the exercise will simulate the landing of marines and taking people on board from the shore.
Russia's naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus is the only such facility it has outside the former Soviet Union.