Russia has never conducted such a massive evacuation of its citizens from a conflict territory abroad. Of course, there will be many displeased Russians among those who were lucky to survive the bombing of Lebanon. However, one has to acknowledge that Moscow is doing everything possible to save Russian citizens from the warfare. In addition to citizens of the Russian Federation, Moscow offered its help to nationals of the former Soviet republics who found themselves in the middle of the war between Israel and Lebanon. Two hundred and fifty people arrived in Syria yesterday and became the first group of Russian refugees fleeing Lebanon.
The process of evacuation is accompanied with active efforts to smooth out the escalating conflict. Russian diplomats - Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Saltanov and ministry’s envoy for the regulation of the Middle East conflict Sergei Yakovlev - left for the region from Moscow, the Vremya Novostei wrote.
Like it usually happens under similar circumstances, the hasty evacuation entailed nerve-racking emotions and lack of coordination. One family was not allowed to leave the territory of Israel due to security reasons. The family consisted of a Russian woman, her husband of Palestinian origin and their two teenage children. Many other people preferred to stay in the middle of the war because of various bureaucratic or family reasons: up to 124 Russian citizens are currently staying in Gaza Strip.
Israel did not let anyone fly from the Tel Aviv airport. The people had to go to the West Bank and then travel to the borders of Jordan. The evacuation becomes even more complicated because of the summer heat – 43 degrees centigrade.
The evacuation from Lebanon was not easy either. Those staying in the south of the country have not been able to come to Beirut. The roads linking the south of Lebanon with its capital are crowded with refugees. Israel tries to destroy the transport infrastructure, aiming its missiles at roads, bridges and refugee columns sometimes, albeit incidentally of course. Lebanon’s south became the central platform of the war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah last week.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that 1230 Russian and CIS citizens would be taken out of Lebanon within two days. Western countries prefer to evacuate their citizens by sea to Cyprus. Over 1,500 refugees arrived at the port of Larnaka yesterday. Their number is expected to increase to 5,000 by the end of the week.
Russia evacuates its citizens from Lebanon for free. The US administration, however, offered everyone holding US passports and willing to depart from Lebanon to cover all adequate costs according to commercial prices. Therefore, a US citizen would have spent $3,000 on his or her own evacuation. Afterwards, the American government changed its mind and said that the evacuees would not have to spend a dollar.
A female resident of Atlanta, whose relatives are living in Lebanon, said that the US government ordered every single person to pay $3,000 of evacuation charges and did not allow to take anything along. The evacuees, the woman added, would have to pay a flight ticket from Cyprus to the USA too.
The US Congress and the State Department looked into the scandal. Some congressmen claimed that the country was spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the war in Iraq, so the evacuation spending looks absolutely affordable. As a result, the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice decided to conduct the evacuation of US citizens from Lebanon free of charge.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
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