Russia’s Emergencies Ministry is sending two planes to the Lebanese capital to pick those Russians who want to leave Syria torn by the ongoing civil conflict. The aircraft leave for Beirut on Tuesday, some 100 Russians are expected to be evacuated.
Two planes, Il-76 and Yak-42, both able to cary up to 120 passengers will be dispatched for Beirut, the ministry confirmed on Monday. The crews will include medics and psychologists.
About 150 Russian citizens, who want to leave Syria are already in Beirut. Most of those being evacuated are women and children.
Earlier media reported that Russia was considering using the navy to evacuate its citizens from Syria. This appeared to be confirmed when several warships were sent to the Mediterranean sea. But the Foreign Ministry denied the speculation, saying the deployment was for scheduled military drills.
In December a member of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, a newly formed opposition body recognized by the West, called Russian citizens in Syria ‘legitimate targets.’
“Russia, like Iran, supports the Assad regime with weapons and ammunition, as well as in the political arena, so the citizens of these countries are legitimate targets for militants in Syria,” Haitham al-Maleh, a member of the coalition told RT.
According to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov there are thousands of Russian citizens living in Syria. Many of them are not registered with the consulate, mostly women and children from mixed marriages.
Another Russian official, Federation Council member Albert Kazharov, estimated the number of Russian citizens in Syria at 100,000.
Russia also has a naval base in Syria which is manned by some 50 sailors and officers. The Tartus base was founded in the 1970s during the Soviet times. Neglected in the 1990s, the base has been recently revived and now is used for repairs and refueling Russian ships in the Medditeranean.
The bases has remained operational despite the blooky conflict that has been raging in Syria for the last two years. However, if the lives of those at the base are put in danger the staff will be evacuated, Russian authorities said in July.