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Russia suspends diplomatic presence in Yemen and moves to Riyadh

Russia's foreign ministry announced that diplomatic staff would be moving their operations to the Saudi capital
Houthi rebel fighters inspect the damage after a reported air strike carried out by the Saudi-led coalition targeted the presidential palace in the Yemeni capital Sanaa (AFP)

Russia has pulled its diplomatic staff out of Yemen over fears of a declining security situation in the capital Sanaa.

"Considering the situation in Sanaa, a decision has been taken to temporarily suspend Russia's diplomatic presence in Yemen. All employees of the Russian embassy have left the country," Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was quoted by news agencies as saying.

"The Russian ambassador and some of the Russian diplomatic corps accredited in Yemen will carry out their duties in Riyadh," she added.

Russia closed its embassy in Sanaa in February 2015 because of what it then deemed an "unpredictable security situation" in the country.

More than 10,000 people have been killed since Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government's fight against the Houthis in 2015, triggering what the UN has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Russia has previously expressed concern about the strikes by the Saudi-led coalition, which killed 26 people at the weekend, following the killing of ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh at the hands of the Houthis.

On Sunday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a renewed push to end the "stupid war" in Yemen, saying he hoped the Trump administration could pressure Saudi Arabia to ease the humanitarian crisis there.

"I believe this is a stupid war. I think this war is against the interests of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates... (and) of the people of Yemen," he said on CNN, employing unusually blunt language for the top UN diplomat.

"What we need is a political solution."

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday took the rare step of publicly demanding that ally Saudi Arabia immediately allow vital humanitarian supplies to reach Yemen, scene of what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with millions at risk of starvation.

Trump, while not asking for an end to Saudi-led bombing of Yemen, said in a statement that his aides would ask the Saudis to "completely allow food, fuel, water and medicine to reach the Yemeni people, who desperately need it."

Guterres said conditions in Yemen had improved somewhat, adding: "I hope that President Trump has put a lot of pressure recently... A lot of humanitarian aid is already going in." 

He said he hoped a Saudi blockade of Yemen's ports, imposed after a Houthi missile was intercepted near Riyadh last month, would be lifted.

As the war drags on, seven million people are believed to be on the brink of famine and a cholera outbreak has caused more than 2,000 deaths.

"This war is causing, in my opinion, terrible suffering to the Yemeni people," while also harming Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, Guterres told CNN.

"It's in the interests of everybody to stop this war."