"On Thursday morning, three Il-62 and Il-76 flights are scheduled to Baghdad, where they will pick the first group of specialists who want to return home. They are mostly the staff of the Russian companies Interenergoservice and Technopromexport," Viktor Beltsov, head of the information department of the Emergencies Ministry, told RIA.
According to him, four more flights are scheduled for Friday, three to Baghdad and one to Al-Kuwait. The latter plane is to pick specialists who work in South Iraq. "In all, we plan to evacuate 553 citizens of Russia and 263 citizens of other CIS countries, but these figures may change, as some specialists may choose to stay in Iraq," said Beltsov.
A well-informed source in Moscow said an agreement had been reached with the USA on the flight of Russian planes over Iraq. The time of their landing and take-off from Baghdad, the route of the car convoy with Russian specialists across the city and other details have been coordinated.
"Those who decide to leave Iraq are to arrive at Baghdad airport by the buses of their companies in good time. The exact number of Russians and CIS citizens will be established by morning, when all lists presented by the companies will be coordinated," said the source.
On Wednesday, the leadership of Russian firms held a blitz poll of their staff in Iraq to determine which of them want to return home. According to the source, Russians do not intend to ask armored support from Americans for their movement to the airport. "In this situation, such security measures can produce an opposite result," he said. "It is planned that the buses will move under Russian flags, as we expect Iraqis to show their loyalty to Russians."
On Monday evening, unidentified persons kidnapped eight specialists of Interenergoservice - three Russians and five Ukrainians - in Baghdad. But they were released less than a day after that, when the kidnappers learned that their victims worked for a Russian company.
On Wednesday, Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu told journalists that his department was ready to evacuate Russian citizens from Iraq. "Everything is ready for the operation," he said, reminding journalists that the ministry has a wealth of experience of evacuating people from hot spots, in particular, from Yemen, Timor and Yugoslavia. Besides, a year ago the ministry planes evacuated Russians from Iraq before the beginning of the US military operation there.