A Russian plane carrying 36 tonnes of humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees in Lebanon landed in Beirut, the first such shipment by Moscow which has supported President Bashar al-Assad throughout the two-year-old conflict.
Russia’s ambassador to Beirut Alexander Zasypkin said the Ilyushin transport plane brought blankets, food supplies and generators to Lebanon, where the United Nations says 398,000 Syrians are seeking refuge from the conflict in their country.
Moscow has supported Assad throughout the revolt by refusing to consider sanctions on Damascus, vetoing three resolutions condemning his crackdown on opposition groups and supplying weapons to the Syrian army, Reuters reports.
The wave of refugees is threatening to overwhelm authorities in a country of only four million people, whose prime minister Najib Mikati resigned last month over disputes in cabinet which have been inflamed by the Syrian civil war.
Mikati, still serving in a caretaker capacity, and President Michel Suleiman have appealed for international help to cope with the flood of refugees escaping a civil war between Assad’s forces and rebels.
Zasypkin told reporters at the airport that Moscow would send another shipment of aid next week and two more later this month.