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      Russian Flotilla 'May Evacuate Russians from Syria'

      Ships are on a training mission but may be about to evacuate Russians if situation worsens.
      By Gil Ronen
      First Publish: 12/18/2012, 5:28 PM

      President Putin
      President Putin
      Reuters

      A flotilla of Russian warships is heading to the Mediterranean Sea near Syrian waters, Russia's Defense Ministry announced.

      Citing a senior naval military source, the Interfax news agency reported last week that the flotilla could be used to evacuate the Russians living in Syria in case the situation in the country worsens.

      "The ships are on their way to the shores of Syria to assist in the possible evacuation of Russian citizens," the source said. "Preparations for departure were made quickly and secretly."

      The ministry said on Tuesday that the flotilla had left the Baltic port of Baltiysk and was sailing for the Mediterranean.

      It includes the frigate Yaroslavl Mudry, the landing ships Kaliningrad and Alexander Shabalin, and two other vessels.

      The ministry said that the Russian naval ships would carry out a training drill after replacing another fleet in the Mediterranean

      Last week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov acknowledged that Bashar Assad may be on his way down from the seat of power. “We must look at the facts," he said. "There is a trend for the government to progressively lose control over an increasing part of the territory. An opposition victory cannot be excluded.”