Russia dispatches ships for evacuation

Russia dispatches ships for evacuation

Russia dispatches ships for evacuation

A Turkish Navy cost guard boat (L) escorts the Russian destroyer Smetlivy in the Bosphorus in this July photo. Smetlivy set for Syria’s Tartus.

Four Russian war ships are headed to Syria’s Tartus port to evacuate Russian citizens from the conflict-torn country.

The large landing ships Azov and Nikolai Filchenkov from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet departed from Novorossiysk on Dec. 24 for the Syrian port of Tartus, where the Russian Navy keeps a small maintenance base. The ships are carrying naval infantry units for protection during the voyage, the Russian news agency Ria Novosti has reported.

They were expected to pass through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits yesterday and today and join the Black Sea Fleet task force comprised of the missile cruiser Moskva and the frigate Smetlivy in the Aegean Sea tomorrow before heading to Tartus. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich confirmed that Russia has a contingency plan for the evacuation of Russian citizens from Syria if necessary.

Brahimi set for Moscow

Meanwhile, U.N. peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi will hold talks in Moscow on Dec. 29 following consultations with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Brahimi himself had requested the meeting. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was pushing Brahimi to ensure that the warring sides stick to a June peace plan that calls for a transition of power without making an explicit demand on al-Assad to step down. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also despatched his deputy foreign minister to Moscow to discuss proposals made by envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.