Russia Begins Military Withdrawal From Syria

Moscow has begun to withdraw military equipment from Syria, the Russian Defence Ministry has said.

“Technicians at the airbase have begun preparing aircraft for long-range flights to airbases in the Russian Federation,” officials said.

It comes hours after President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to begin pulling out of the war-torn country.

During a meeting in the Kremlin with his ministers, Mr Putin said the forces should withdraw because they have largely achieved their aim.

He also ordered the country’s diplomatic efforts be stepped up to secure a peace deal in Syria.

The move was announced on the day UN-backed peace talks between the warring sides in Syria resumed in Geneva.

It comes five months after Moscow launched a military operation in support of the Damascus regime.

Waves of airstrikes by Russian warplanes against Syrian opposition forces have reversed the tide of the bloody civil war and put the forces of Bashar al Assad on the front foot, ahead of the recent fragile.

A spokesman said the Russian leader had agreed the military withdrawal in a telephone call with Mr Assad.

Mr Putin said: “The effective work of our military created the conditions for the start of the peace process.

“I believe that the task put before the defence ministry and Russian armed forces has, on the whole, been fulfilled.

“With the participation of the Russian military … the Syrian armed forces and patriotic Syrian forces have been able to achieve a fundamental turnaround in the fight against international terrorism and have taken the initiative in almost all respects.

“I am therefore ordering the defence minister … to start the withdrawal of the main part of our military contingent from the Syrian Arab Republic.”

However, Mr Putin did not give a timetable for the completion of the pullout and said Moscow would retain a military presence in Syria.

Damascus said Moscow had pledged to continue to support the country in “confronting terrorism”.

The announcement was also discussed during a phone call between Mr Putin and the US President Barack Obama.

Syria’s main opposition gave Russia’s decision a cautious welcome, but raised concerns it could be “a trick”.

It would wait and see what impact the order would have on the ground.

Salem al Meslet, a spokesman for the opposition High Negotiations Committee, told reporters in Geneva: “Tomorrow we will see if this decision is made for the sake of the Syrian people or just for the sake of (Syrian President Bashar) al Assad.

“It will be more important if Putin decides to really stand beside the Syrian people, not beside the dictator.”

Credit:Sky News