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Russians evacuate Syria, leave doubt in wake

Russian officials downplayed the recent evacuation of over 100 citizens from Syria, while some experts say the move puts doubt on President Assad.

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A Russian girl leaving Syria waves to photographers at the Masnaa Lebanese border crossing on Jan. 22, 2013. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian officials said Tuesday the recent escape of some of its citizens from war-town Syria does not constitute a full-scale evacuation.

"We are not talking about a full evacuation ... It is not planned that everyone will leave," said Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov, according to Reuters which quoted the state-run news agency Itar-Tass.

"We are helping those who want to leave," said Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.

However, some see the two planes sent to Lebanon on Tuesday to retrive over 100 Russian citizens escaping blooding Syria as a sign the Kremlin is losing faith with Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

"It's a sign of distrust in Assad, who seems unlikely to hold on to power," Alexei Malashenko, a Middle East expert with the Carnegie Endowment's Moscow office, told USA Today

Russia has been a stalwart ally for President of Bashar al Assad and his government against the various factions of the Free Syrian Army. 

"At the beginning there were predictions (that the fighting would last) two to three months, four months," Bogdanov said on Tuesday. "The military-political situation could develop in various ways, but we think it (the conflict) may be prolonged."

Middle East expert Georgy Mirsky of the Institute for World Economy and International Relations told USA Today the recent evacuation signifies increased risk for Russians in Syria.

"Many are reluctant to leave, hoping that the situation could somehow stabilize," Mirsky said. "But Aleppo is already half-ruined, and it will soon come to that in Damascus too. Sooner or later, Assad is going to lose."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/130122/russians-evacuate-syria-leave-doubt-wake