Russia sends plane to evacuate citizens from ME

Russia sent an airliner to Jordan on Monday to begin evacuating citizens from areas of the Middle East affected by the growing conflict, an emergency official said. The flight came a day after Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia was preparing to evacuate its citizens from Lebanon, and the Emergency Situations Ministry said the first plane would evacuate 74 citizens of Russia and other ex-Soviet nations, mostly women and children, from Lebanon and the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Ministry spokeswoman Yelena Yerashova said the flight left Monday morning, but she had no other information. The RIA-Novosti news agency said the first plane would evacuate citizens living in the Palestinian territories, and that they would likely travel to Jordan by bus with the help of Russia's Foreign Ministry. The Foreign Ministry said there were more than 1,400 Russian citizens in the country. RIA-Novosti and ITAR-Tass quoted Russia's charge d'affaires in Lebanon as saying that more than 1,000 were ready to leave. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Vyacheslav Sedov denied what he said were media reports that Russia would send warships to the Mediterranean to evacuate Russian citizens from the region, Interfax reported.