Russians Fleeing Syria War Cross into Lebanon to Travel to Moscowإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Four buses carrying Russian citizens escaping the Syrian civil war crossed the Masnaa border post on Tuesday to travel to Moscow via Beirut airport.
A Russian embassy official traveling with the group said about 80 people, mostly women and children, are on the buses.
Several men also have been seen in the first group of Russian citizens being evacuated from Syria.
Russia sent two planes to Beirut that will take the group home later.
A Russian diplomat told Agence France Presse earlier Tuesday that up to 150 Russians are preparing to flee the bloodshed in Syria over the next two days on board the two planes.
The diplomat insisted that the airlift was not the start of an operation to evacuate Russian nationals from Syria.
"There are thousands of Russian citizens in Syria. The issue is that the Russian airline is no longer flying to Damascus, so we are helping some 100, maximum 150 people to leave Syria via Beirut, which is very close," the diplomat said on the condition of anonymity.
"We are simply helping people who have gone to the Russian consulate in Damascus requesting assistance."
Though the Russian consulate in Damascus is open, the road linking the international airport to the capital has fallen prey to violence in recent weeks as rebels seek to cut off the regime's main link to the outside world.
The diplomat downplayed earlier reports that Moscow was evacuating its citizens from Syria.
"This is not an evacuation. There is no pressure at all on Russians in Syria to leave the country, because there are many areas in Damascus which are completely safe and free from violence or any clashes," the diplomat said.
He, however, said that the planes scheduled to leave on Tuesday and Wednesday would not be the last to help Russians flee the strife-torn country.
"It will be an ongoing operation. Whenever enough people request assistance at the consulate in Damascus, we will organize for new planes," the diplomat added.
Moscow, a staunch ally of Damascus, has been steadfast in its support of President Bashar Assad's regime since the conflict erupted in March 2011.