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Russian Defense Ministry refutes reports of Syria evacuation

Published time: June 27, 2013 14:34
Edited time: June 28, 2013 10:10
Sailors of nuclear-powered missile cruiser Pyotr Veliky painting rocket launch machine ahead of making port call in Tartus.(RIA Novosti / Grigoriy Sisoev)

Sailors of nuclear-powered missile cruiser Pyotr Veliky painting rocket launch machine ahead of making port call in Tartus.(RIA Novosti / Grigoriy Sisoev)

Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a press release that civilian contractors continue to work at the Tartus navy base and blasted media reports about total evacuation as “extremely incorrect.”

The Russian Defense Ministry really has no military servicemen at the navy base in the Syrian port of Tartus, because the base is being serviced only by Russian civilian personnel” reads the statement distributed by the ministry’s press service on Thursday.

The personnel are working according to the everyday schedule. We cannot talk about any evacuation from Tartus in this case. Tartus remains the official base and repair facility for Russian ships in the Mediterranean Sea and it continues to execute its tasks in line with its purpose,” the statement reads.

The press service stressed that earlier media statements about personnel withdrawal from Tartus were presented “extremely incorrectly from the real situation’s point of view.”

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also refuted the evacuation reports at a press conference on Friday. “The evacuation of this base is out of question as well as the evacuation of its personnel,” the minister said. Lavrov also blasted the reports that Russia had closed its embassy in Damascus as a provocation claiming that the embassy was working in an everyday mode, despite complicated conditions.

The report about the total evacuation of Russian personnel, both military and civilian from the Syrian port of Tartus was distributed by the Russian business daily Vedomosti with reference to an unnamed source in the Defense Ministry. Vedomosti’s source commented on an earlier statement made by Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that, “Presently, the Russian Defense Ministry has not a single person stationed in Syria.”

Russia currently has a 16-ship flotilla in the Mediterranean Sea, but none of them has called at the port of Tartus in recent months and there were no reports of such plans. The ships were deployed to the region to fight terrorism and piracy.

The Russian Emergencies Ministry is also continuing the evacuation of civilians from Syria – its planes are taking out citizens of Russia and other ex-Soviet states, such as Ukraine. One hundred and twenty-eight people, mostly women and children, arrived in Moscow by a special flight on Tuesday night, the ministry reported. The total number of people evacuated by the Emergencies Ministry from Syria since the beginning of the year is about 600.

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