MOSCOW Feb 18 Russia will send two planes to
Syria on Tuesday to deliver 46 tonnes of humanitarian aid and
pick up citizens that want to leave the war-torn country, an
emergencies ministry spokeswoman was reported as saying on
Russia has been one of the biggest foreign protectors of
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but in recent months Moscow
has given signs it may be preparing for his possible defeat.
The planes carrying tents, power generators, furniture and
11 tonnes of food will fly to the port city of Latakia in
northwestern Syria, emergencies ministry spokeswoman Irina
Rossius said, according to Itar-Tass news agency.
She said that as well as Russian citizens, the planes would
pick up citizens from the Commonwealth of Independent States
(CIS), a regional group of post-Soviet states.
"Citizens of Russia, as well as CIS countries, who want to
fly out of that country, will be able to leave Syria on the
planes," she said.
Moscow has blocked three U.N. Security Council resolutions
that would have increased pressure on Damascus to end the
violence which has seen nearly 70,000 people killed in an
uprising that is almost two years old.
In January, the Kremlin sent two flights to evacuate 77
citizens from Syria, a signal that Russia may be preparing for
the possibility of Assad's fall.
Russia's Middle East envoy Mikhail Bogdanov was quoted in
December as saying Syrian rebels were gaining ground and might
win. However Russia's Foreign Ministry put out a statement the
following day saying that, despite Bogdanov's comments, Moscow's
policy on Syria had not changed.
Russia says that Assad's departure must not be a
precondition for negotiations to settle the conflict.
(Reporting By Thomas Grove; Editing by Pravin Char)