Russia on Wednesday denied any large-scale evacuation plan for pulling Russian citizens from Syria, even as Moscow flew 77 people out of the war-torn country, reported the Associated Press.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the 77 people were diplomats’ families, and their relocation did not signal similar movement for the tens of thousands of Russian citizens currently in Syria, BBC News said.
Lavrov did say that about 1,000 Russians want to leave Syria, according to the AP. But he downplayed concerns that Russia will be evacuating its citizens on a grand scale.
"We have plans [for an evacuation], as we have plans for any country, in case of an escalation of the internal situation ... but there is no talk of implementing them," Lavrov told reporters in Moscow, according to the BBC.
Syria has been the scene of growing violence over the past 22 months as President Bashar al-Assad, whose country is a Russian ally, struggles to counter the armed rebel movement seeking his overthrow.
Over 60,000 people are believed to have been killed in Syria since the violence began. The conflict sparked a humanitarian crisis that continues to threaten the lives of vulnerable Syrian groups, such as women and children, and has left hundreds of thousands of people stateless.
International efforts to end the crisis there have been unsuccessful — in part due to Russian resistance at the UN Security Council to a change in regime. Assad is a major purchaser of Russian arms.