Is #Russia getting ready to skedaddle from #Syria?

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A number of reports have come to my attention in the last few days that would appear to answer that question in the affirmative and I now would like to share them with you.

Russia has had a naval fleet in the area ready to evaluate thousands of Russian citizens from Syria since November but now we are seeing some new movement.

Oh, and if NATO is still looking for a "pretext" for war with Syria as Amy and the anti-interventionists contend, they have another one. Ahram reports:

Syrian mortar round hits Turkey, no casualties

Incident marks first reported spillover from civil war in several weeks
Reuters , Monday 14 Jan 2013
A mortar round, apparently fired from Syria, crashed in a field in Turkey overnight close to a refugee camp housing thousands of Syrians along the border but there were no casualties, Turkish state media reported on Monday.

The incident, which could not immediately be confirmed by Turkish officials, would mark the first reported instance of spillover from Syria's civil war in Turkey in several weeks.

NATO troops have begun deploying Patriot defence missiles in Turkey - a supporter of rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - against a potential attack from its southern neighbour. More...

More Fun Facts below the fold

To begin with, we have what looks to be an English translation of a Russian publication that someone posted via twitlonger. No information on the authenticity of the document or the accuracy of the translation:

Russia plans to evacuate Russians in Syria from Tartus & Latakia

@samersniper Update: Russian plan to evacuate Russians #Syria over #Tartus & #Latakia "San Francisco" will be repaired in the Syrian port of Tartus
Text: View
Photo: BDK "San Francisco."
Repair faulty diesel generator large landing ship "San Francisco" Black Sea Fleet will perform floating workshop PM-56, which is permanently based in the Syrian port of Tartus, informed in the press service of the Russian Ministry of Defence and information.

"BDK" Saratov "came from the Aegean Sea eastern Mediterranean to participate in the exercises of the Navy of Russia ", - said the administration," Interfax. " Earlier it was reported that a large landing ship Black Sea Fleet "San Francisco" broke on the way to mezhflotskie exercises in the Mediterranean. The ship began to self-repair. ship was supposed to meet with a group of warships of the Black Sea Fleet, performing combat missions in the Mediterranean, and the next week "San Francisco" will go to the Syrian port of Tartus, where is the point of logistics of the Russian Navy. Recall in late December, large landing ship "Azov" and "Nicholas Filchenkov" came from Novorossiysk to the Syrian port of Tartus with the Marine Corps Special Forces soldiers and a few pieces of equipment on board. Earlier it was reported that the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry prepared a plan for large-scale operations evacuation of Russian citizens from Syria, according to the document, a few days security forces are ready to take out of the dangerous area of about 30 thousand Russians. Rescuers have provided a number of ways and routes to evacuate Russians. The first way - combined. People will bring in road transport in the Syrian port of Tartus and Latakia and forward from there by sea to Cyprus, to the port of Larnaca. Refugees from there transported to Russia plane MOE and the Ministry of Defense, as well as scheduled flights "Aeroflot", "Cyprus Airways" on aircraft Airbus-320 (capacity - 180 people). Also in the evacuation of Russian authorities plan to use four passenger ferry: "Apolonia" ( 250 seats), Ant-1 (90 seats), Ant-2 (68 seats) and "Nicholas Konarev" (75 seats). Now, these ferries are in the waters of the Red Sea, Mediterranean and Black Seas. Also expected to participate in the operation of patrol and large amphibious ships of the Baltic and Black Sea fleets.

Normally i wouldn't build a diary around something like that, but then this popped up from Trend:

Russian Consulate General in Aleppo temporarily suspends activity

15 January 2013, 16:41 (GMT+04:00)
The activity of the Consulate General of Russia in Aleppo has been temporarily suspended, a representative of the Russian Embassy in Syria told RIA Novosti on Tuesday.

"The Consulate General in Aleppo has temporarily suspended its work. It is now necessary to contact the consular office of the Russian Embassy in Damascus for all consular matters", the source said.

CNN is also confirming this report on the Aleppo consulate closure as of 9:00 EST and also has a very interesting "What are we? Chopped liver?" story about 2 Syrian military officers that have been captured by the FSA in October. After hearing about the swap of 48 Iranians for 2130 prisoners Assad agreed too, they issued this video begging Assad to arrange a swap for them:

"We were captured by FSA while we were armed, and we have been treated based on the International conventions," says Gen. Brig. Ahmed Raeidi, referring to international detention laws.

Raeidi and Staff Brigadier Hussein Allouch, an engineer from the Armored Vehicles Department, are shown beseeching al-Assad -- a fellow Alawite -- to help them.

"We have been pleading with the Syrian regime to consider our release and to arrange a prisoner swap in exchange (for) 50 innocent civilians, including women, but we haven't received any response from the Syrian authorities," Raeidi says.

And the most interesting of all is this report from Business Insider:

REPORT: Assad Has Left Syria For A Warship In The Mediterranean

Robert Johnson | Jan. 14, 2013, 11:47 AM
After nearly two years of conflict and 117,000 displaced Syrians the UPI reports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his family may have left the country to live aboard a warship manned by Russian security.

UPI cites an unconfirmed Al-Watan report that claims Assad's family is somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea and that the now semi-deposed president travels back to the country by helicopter for meetings and receptions.

Al-Watan is not the most reliable source. The fact their report is unavailable, and also unconfirmed by UPI, leaves a heavy doubt lingering over the Assad offshore family charter. But, we've seen Syrian news downplayed before when nobody on the ground was able to "confirm" reports to the satisfaction of many Western news outlets. Every policy think tank expert in the world has an opinion on how the Syrian crisis will end, before it does, this is one possibility that slipped out through UPI:

When [Assad] flies to his embattled country, the president lands at undisclosed locations and is transported to the presidential palace under heavy guard, the sources said. The Russian-guarded warship provides a safe environment for Assad, who has lost confidence in his own security detail, the report said.

Assad's presence on the warship suggests he has been granted political asylum by Russia but there has been no official comment from Moscow, the newspaper said. Assad's presence on the ship could be a sign of looming negotiations on the conflict in Syria, the report said.


Earlier today, when Switzerland introduced its letter, backed by 57 countries, asking the UNSC to refer Syria to the ICC, Russia said "We consider this initiative ill-timed and counterproductive if we are to achieve the current priority goal -- an immediate end to bloodshed in Syria,"

And now in the "This just in" Department we have this Russian response to the bombing today at Aleppo U. From KUNA:

Russia wants UNSC to strongly condemn "terrorist attacks" in Aleppo''s University complex

16/01/2013 | 12:32 AM
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 15 (KUNA) -- Russia circulated a press statement Tuesday urging Security Council members to condemn "in the strongest terms" the "terrorist attacks" earlier in the day in the complex of the University of Aleppo, Syria, but Western members in the Council were not very responsive, a Council diplomat said.

The diplomat said France suggested putting the draft under silence procedure until tomorrow Wednesday. One of the Western members is expected to break that silence tomorrow and the draft will be shelved, as it was the case with similar previous Russian drafts.
The attack caused multiple deaths and injuries among students and other civilians.
According to the Russian draft, the Council would reaffirm that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.

The Council would also reiterate its determination to combat all forms of terrorism, in accordance with its responsibilities under the UN Charter. (end) KUNA 160032 Jan 13NNNN

The longer the war, the thicker the fog

Click here for a list of my other Daily Kos dairies on Syria