First 28 Russians Fleeing Syrian Crisis Leave Beirut

MOSCOW, January 23 (RIA Novosti) – A plane carrying 28 Russian nationals, who decided to leave Syria amid escalating violence in the war-torn country, has flown from Lebanese capital Beirut to Moscow, Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry said.

Russia sent a Yak-42 and an Il-76 planes, which can carry a total of about 100 passengers, to the Middle East on Tuesday to fly about 80 of its nationals out of Syria.

“A Yak-42 has flown to Moscow [from Lebanon]. It carries 28 women and children on board,” a spokesman for the ministry said late on Tuesday.

The plane is expected to arrive in Moscow’s Domodedovo airport where the Russians will be met by medical personnel, psychologists and immigration officials.

According to the Russian Embassy in Syria, a total of 81 people were on the list of Russian nationals wanting to go to Russia, as of Tuesday.

The group includes Russian women who have married Syrians, their children and husbands who have acquired Russian citizenship.

The transport assistance comes about a week after the temporary closure of the Russian Consulate General in the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo, the scene of months of vicious fighting between government forces and rebel groups. The Russian Embassy in Damascus remains open, however the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that cuts in staff were possible.

The embassy has told RIA Novosti that 8,008 Russian nationals are registered in its official lists, but diplomatic sources have estimated that about 25,000 more Russian women married to Syrians live in the country without registering at Russian consular services. An embassy source interviewed by telephone on Tuesday said it was difficult to know exactly how many Russian nationals remain in Syria because many have already left.

At least 60,000 people have been killed in Syria in the conflict between government and rebel forces in since March 2011, according to UN estimates released in January.

The conflict has also forced some 600,000 people to flee Syria in fear of a protracted civil war.


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