“An Il-76 plane took off for Latakia on Sunday morning,” said Russian Emergency Ministry Spokeswoman Irina Rossius. “The plane will carry both Russians and citizens of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) from Syria,”
The voluntary evacuation is the second operation organized by Russia after it removed nearly 90 people — mostly women and children — late last month from Syria’s Latakia city to Moscow.
In March 2011, Russia launched an evacuation operation when it sent two planes to Beirut to evacuate its citizens and other ex-Soviet citizens willing to leave Syria, according to Russian media.
According to the report, almost 730 citizens of Russia and other former Soviet republics have fled civil war in Syria on Emergency Situations Ministry planes since January 2013, the ministry said in August.
The Russian move came after the US State Department asked its non-emergency staff and family members Friday to leave Lebanon, citing security concerns.
“The Department of State drew down non-emergency personnel and family members from Embassy Beirut due to threats to US mission facilities and personnel,” a statement on the Embassy website said.
It also urged US citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon due to current safety and security concerns.
“US citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks,” the State Department said.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that the number of countries ready to commit to military action against the Syrian government is now in “double digits.”
“There are a number of countries, in the double digits, who are prepared to take military action,” Kerry said.
Speaking in Paris, Kerry said the world could not be silent spectators to slaughter after the Syrian regime allegedly used chemical agents against civilians in a Damascus suburb on Aug. 21, according to the BBC.
Kerry also told reporters, after a meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, that United States reserve the right to strike on Syria before the presentation of report of UN experts.
“President Obama has not yet decided and reserves all possible options,” Kerry said.
In this context, US President Barack Obama said earlier that “any military strike on Syria will be limited both in time and scope — designed to deter the Syrian government from gassing its own people again and degrade its ability to do so.”
The US says 1,429 people died, including 426 children, in the Aug. 21 attack on the Damascus suburbs. According to US intelligence reports, sarin gas was used in that attack.
In the meantime, the European Union urged the international community to take a strong and clear stance against Syria, but called on the US to hold off on any strike until the results of a UN chemical investigation came in.
On his side, French President Francois Hollande, said France is expecting the results of the UN investigation to be submitted by the end of the week, according to the BBC.
Last week’s G20 summit in Russia failed to produce any comprehensive international response to the Syrian crisis, neither the US changes its mind regarding the military intervention in Syria nor Russia was convinced that regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is responsible for the chemical attack.