Russia evacuates 100 citizens from Syria
Russia's emergencies ministry on Tuesday airlifted 103 Russians and citizens of former Soviet republics from Syria amid continuing violence in the strife-torn country, news reports said.
The Il-62 plane left from Latakia airport in western Syria where President Bashar al-Assad enjoys his strongest support at 1440 GMT, news agencies quoted a ministry spokeswoman as saying.
Russia denies organising a major evacuation of its nationals and says it is only taking back people who volunteered to leave aboard planes that were sent to provide Syria with various supplies.
A coordinated airlift would be read as a signal of Moscow's admission that Assad's regime was on the brink of collapse.
Russia has vetoed three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions against Assad and has said that the Syrian strongman must be taken at his word when he says he has no intention to quit.
Moscow has airlifted small groups of its citizens from Syria on at least two prior occasions.
© 2013 AFP