MOSCOW, January 23 (RIA Novosti) – A total of 77 Russian citizens, mostly women and children, were flown back on Wednesday from Beirut after fleeing Syria by land as the security situation in the war-torn country continues to deteriorate, Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said.
The first group of 28 people was delivered by a Yak-42 passenger plane, followed by a larger group of 49 Russian nationals transported by an Il-76 plane.
The planes arrived early on Wednesday in Moscow’s Domodedovo airport where the Russians were met by medical personnel, psychologists and immigration officials.
The evacuees include Russian women who have married Syrians, their children and husbands who have acquired Russian citizenship.
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 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, although the Foreign Ministry said on 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.
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 protracted violence.
Meanwhile, the civil war in Syria continues to gain momentum as the Syrian rebels intensify their push on the capital, Damascus, and other key cities in the country.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday that a diplomatic solution to the war seems unlikely.