Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Russia starts 'evacuation' of Russian nationals from Syria.(HD).Russia has started to evacuate its citizens from war-torn Syria, with up to 150 Russian nationals preparing to flee over the next two days. Two planes have been sent to Beirut from Moscow, while four buses are carrying Russians into Lebanon, in the first evacuation organized by Moscow since the start of the conflict nearly two years ago.
About 80 people, mostly women and children, were on the buses, according to an official from the Russian Embassy in Beirut who was waiting for the group at the Masnaa border crossing in eastern Lebanon. The evacuation is being interpreted as the strongest sign yet of Russia’s doubts as to the ability of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to cling to power. A Russian diplomat insisted that the airlift was not the start of an operation to evacuate Russian nationals from Syria. “There are thousands of Russian citizens in Syria. Russian airline is no longer flying to Damascus, so we are helping 100, a maximum of 150, people leave Syria via Beirut,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
Though the Russian consulate in Damascus is open, the road linking the international airport to the capital has fallen prey to violence in recent weeks, as rebels seek to cut off the regime’s main link to the outside world. The diplomat downplayed earlier reports that Moscow was evacuating its citizens from Syria. “This is not an evacuation. There is no pressure at all on Russians in Syria to leave the country, because there are many areas in Damascus which are completely safe and free from violence,” the diplomat said. However, he added that the planes scheduled to leave yesterday and today would not be the last to help Russians flee the strife-torn country. “It will be an ongoing operation. Whenever enough people request assistance in Damascus, we will arrange for new planes,” he said.Read the full story here.