(MOSCOW) — Russian warships are headed to Syria but apparently not to help prop up the government of ally President Bashar al-Assad.
In what seems like reading the handwriting on the wall, Moscow is preparing to evacuate citizens currently living in Syria if al-Assad’s regime falls after a 21-month conflict with rebel forces that has cost tens of thousands of lives.
By all accounts, al-Assad’s days may be numbered and Russia is concerned that it will have a difficult time moving its nationals out of Syria since they’re all over the country due to decades of settling there.
Nonetheless, the Russian Defense Ministry announced on Tuesday that ships were being deployed to the eastern Mediterranean Sea, as one unidentified navy officer acknowledged it was “for possible participation in the evacuation of Russian citizens.”
Presumably, they would be taken to safety to a port on the Black Sea.
Russia has been a staunch ally of al-Assad through the conflict that began in March 2011, vetoing United Nations resolutions calling for the president’s ouster and refusing calls for foreign intervention to end the bloodshed.
However, with reports daily of opposition forces grabbing more territory and al-Assad rumored to be considering using chemical weapons, Russia is at the stage where it’s trying to cut its losses.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Don Melvin, Joshua Berlinger and Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN Newswire
Andreas Preuss and Joe Sutton, CNN