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IISS: 150,000 Assad supporters seen migrating to North Caucasus in Russia

Special to WorldTribune.com

LONDON — Up to 150,000 Syrians could flee to Russia with the
collapse of the regime of President Bashar Assad, a report said.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies said Russia could be
swamped by appeals from at least 150,000 people identified with the Assad
regime.

Large numbers of Syria’s Circassian community are seeking a return to their traditional homeland in Russia’s North Caucasus. /Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri

In a report, IISS cited tens of thousands of Russians who married
Syrians as well as ethnic Circassians whose ancestors arrived in Syria more than 150 years ago and regarded by Sunnis as supporters of Assad.

“Moscow is concerned about the prospect of Circassians relocating from Syria to the febrile republics of the North Caucasus, where their Russian kin reside,” the report, titled “Russia’s Syrian Stance: Principled Self-interest,” said. “This is mainly because of the pressure that such a movement would put on labour markets and government resources in the North Caucasus.”

IISS said Russians comprise a significant portion of those aligned with the Assad regime. The report said Moscow has deployed at least “several hundred” military personnel in Syria, many of them at the Russian Navy base in Tartous.

The report said up to 40,000 Russians were married to Syrians and living
in Syria, deemed the second largest military client of Moscow in 2011. The
institute said the figure consisted only of those with Russian passports
rather than their close relatives.

“For a variety of reasons, the Russian community is regarded as
supportive of Assad,” the report said. “If the regime falls, its situation
in Syria could become very awkward, to the point that it might not be
tenable.”

Another 50,000-100,000 people were believed to be considering relocating
to Russia. The report said the Circassian minority in Syria, many of whom
live in rebel-held areas, has been identified with Assad.

“They too are considered to be part of Assad’s minority coalition, and
many of them reside in places that have seen heavy fighting and popular
displacement,” the report said.

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