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Russian ships near for Syrian evacuation

Dec. 19, 2012 at 4:08 PM

MOSCOW, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Russia is sending warships to the Mediterranean for a potential evacuation of diplomats if the Syrian regime falls, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

Russia acknowledged rebel forces fighting against President Bashar Assad, who is closely allied with Russia, have taken as hostages two Russian diplomats and an Italian working with them. Rebels are demanding a ransom for their return, Voice of America said Wednesday.

Should the larger civil war lead to Assad's grip on power slipping, Russian diplomats may need to be rescued, defense officials said. Ships from the nation's fleet in the Baltic have been dispatched to the region to assist in that effort should it be necessary, officials said.

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