Russia sends planes to rescue nationals from Syria
Moscow, Feb 20 : Russia sent two planes to deliver humanitarian aid to Syria and evacuate Russians and nationals of former Soviet republics from the war-stricken Middle East country Tuesday.
"Il-62 and Il-76 airplanes have taken off for Latakia [eastern Syria]," a Russian emergency ministry official said.
The planes carried around 46 tonnes of humanitarian aid, including tents and power generators.
Meanwhile, Russian naval vessels in the Mediterranean were also standing by to evacuate Russian nationals if necessary, with an additional four large landing ships also expected to arrive in the area soon, a military source said.
"The main task of the Russian naval forces will be participation in a possible evacuation of Russian citizens from Syria," the source said.
There was no information available on how many Russian nationals were waiting to travel back to Moscow on Tuesday.
The Russian embassy in Syria estimated there were some 30,000 Russians living in the country, but other reports suggest the figure could be much higher.
At least 60,000 people have died in Syria since the start of the uprising against Assad in March 2011, according to UN figures.