MOSCOW, September 27 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s Defense Ministry is ready to evacuate Russian nationals from Syria should the need arise, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Friday.
Shoigu said that Russia has “a sufficient number of vessels” positioned off the Syrian coast, should the country need to evacuate its people from Syria, and confirmed that additional ships had been sent to the area.
He said that Defense Ministry specialists keep a close watch on the area, saying that “they hear and see everything,” and adding that “7,000 people cannot be evacuated in one hour.”
Russia has been increasing its naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea since it announced in December it would establish a standing task force there to protect its interests in the region.
Initial statements by Russian Defense officials did not explicitly attribute this to the ongoing civil war in Syria, but on September 5, the Kremlin chief of staff said that “given the presence there of amphibious landing ships, they are intended for a possible evacuation of Russian citizens.”