Russia announced Monday that it was sending two airplanes from its emergency services fleet to Beirut, Lebanon, to evacuate about 100 Russian citizens from Syria.
The decision reflects Moscow’s belief that President Bashar al-Assad is losing control of the country after nearly two years of civil war.
The New York Times reported that it was not clear if the announcement signals a large scale evacuation of most of Russian citizens from Syria. Russia has an estimated 30,000 citizens in the country, including government and military personnel, private contractors, and thousands of women married to Syrian men.
Around a dozen Russian ships are in the Mediterranean off the coast of Syria for naval exercises and could be used to evacuate Russian citizens.
“On orders from the leadership of the Russian Federation, the Emergencies Ministry is sending two airplanes to Beirut so that all Russians who want can leave Syria,” Emergency Services Ministry spokeswoman Irina Rossius said.
“It is planned that more than 100 Russians will leave Syria” on these planes, she told the Interfax news agency.
Russia has been Assad’s main foreign protector during the 22-month-long uprising against his regime.
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