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Russian Ships Near Syria to Evacuate Civilians

Updated: Thursday, September 5 2013, 02:01 PM EDT

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) - The Kremlin's chief of staff says Russia has been sending warships to the Mediterranean Sea for possible evacuation of Russian citizens from Syria.

Russian news agencies on Thursday quoted Sergei Ivanov as saying that Russia has been boosting its naval presence in the Mediterranean "primarily" in order to organize a possible evacuation of Russians from Syria.

Russia has been one of Syrian leader Bashar Assad's staunchest allies in the civil war that has been raging for more than two years.

Reports of increased Russian naval presence in the area have stoked fears about a larger international conflict if the United States orders airstrikes over a chemical weapons attack last month.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters at the G-20 summit that the U.S. should wait for the report of U.N. inspectors who investigated a chemical attack in Syria.

Putin has said Washington's evidence of the Syrian regime's involvement was not persuasive.

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Russian Ships Near Syria to Evacuate Civilians


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The Syrian civil war, (also known as the Syrian uprising or Syrian crisis) is an ongoing armed conflict in Syria between forces loyal to the Ba'ath government and those seeking to oust it. A part of the larger Middle Eastern protest movement known as the Arab Spring, the conflict began March 15th, 2011 with local demonstrations that grew in scope to become nationwide by April 2011.

Protesters demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held the presidency in Syria since 1971, as well as the end of Ba'ath Party rule, which began in 1963.

The Syrian Army was deployed in April of 2011 to stop the uprising, and soldiers fired on demonstrators across the country. After months of cities and neighborhoods being cut-off by the Army the protests evolved into an armed rebellion.

The Arab League, United States, European Union, and other countries condemned the use of violence against the protesters. The Arab League suspended Syria's membership as a result of the government's response to the crisis, but granted the Syrian National Coalition, a coalition of Syrian political opposition groups, Syria's seat on 6 March 2013.

According to the UN, about 4 million Syrians have been displaced within the country and 2 million have fled to other countries.

Syrian government supporters include Russia and Iran, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia are providing material and weapons to the rebels.


 
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