Russia's ominously named "Emergencies Ministry" has reportedly sent two airplanes to Lebanon, so that it can evacuate more than 100 Russian citizens who have fled Syria. The move signals a decided lack of confidence in the outcome of the current civil war. While it still refuses to abandon Bashar Al-Assad, Moscow has repeatedly hinted that it believes his reign is doomed. Russia says this is not an evacuation, but since the top Russian airlines no longer fly to Damascus, it's the only way for them to escape. Russia's navy has also increased its presence in the region, perhaps to assist with the mini-airlift.
Many of the Russians living in Syria work for Rosoboronexport, which handles military exports between the two countries. There also other businesspeople and their families, representing other Russian companies, as well as thousands of Russian women who moved there to marry Syrian men. Moscow estimates there may be around 30,000 Russians living in the country, but only those who have already made it to Beruit will get a ride home.
Despite blocking any attempt by the U.N. Security Council to rein in Syria, Russia has expressed concerns that the Assad regime will soon fall, spreading chaos throughout the region. (And definitely endangering Russian interests there.) Russia's deputy foreign minister has said that Assad "is progressively losing control" and that rebels may in fact win. That hasn't been enough for them to directly intervene on the side of peace, but helping their own citizens escape will not inspire much hope. Meanwhile, Jordan says that 5,900 Syrians fled across the border in just the last 24 hours, pushing the total number of refugees living there to nearly 200,000.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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