MOSCOW—Russia is sending two planes to Lebanon to evacuate Russians from Syria, the government said Monday, a move that suggests Moscow is growing doubtful that Syrian President Bashar Assad can cling to power in the face of an armed uprising.
Russia has been the main ally of Assad since the start of the conflict in the Arab state in March 2011, using its veto power at the United Nations Security Council to shield Damascus from international sanctions.
But it has recently begun to distance itself from the Syrian ruler, signalling it is resigned to him losing power.
A squadron of Russian Navy ships is currently in the Mediterranean for a planned exercise near Syrian shores later this month. Military officials earlier said that the exercise will simulate both the landing of marines and taking people on board from the shore.