Kremlin to start evacuation of Russians from Syria

Associated Press
This image made from amateur video released by Ugarit News, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows a Syrian rebel firing his weapon in Damascus, Syria, Friday, June 21, 2013. The commander of Syria's rebels confirms they have received new weapons, giving his forces more power in battles against government troops and Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon. Gen. Salim Idris refused to say in an interview with Al-Jazeera TV Friday where the weapons came from. (AP Photo/Ugarit News via AP video)
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This image made from amateur video released by Ugarit News, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows a Syrian rebel firing his weapon in Damascus, Syria, Friday, June 21, 2013. The commander of Syria's rebels confirms they have received new weapons, giving his forces more power in battles against government troops and Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon. Gen. Salim Idris refused to say in an interview with Al-Jazeera TV Friday where the weapons came from. (AP Photo/Ugarit News via AP video)

MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian government says it is sending two planes to Lebanon to evacuate Russians from Syria, the first such effort since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad began in March 2011.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said two of its planes will fly to Beirut on Tuesday to carry more than 100 Russians from Syria.

Monday's announcement appears to reflect Moscow's increasing doubts about Assad's ability to cling to power and growing concerns about the safety of its citizens.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has said that it has contingency plans in place to evacuate thousands of Russians from Syria.

Russia has been the main ally of Assad since the start of the conflict, using its veto power at the United Nations Security Council to shield the Syrian strongman from sanctions.

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