Putin orders ‘main part’ of russian forces out of Syria
Putin orders ‘main part’ of russian forces out of Syria –
BBC – In a surprise move, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his military to start withdrawing the “main part” of its forces in Syria from Tuesday.
He said the Russian intervention had largely achieved its objectives.
The comments come amid fresh peace talks in Geneva aimed at resolving the five-year Syrian conflict.
Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his office said in a statement he had agreed to the move.
The pullout was “in accordance with the situation on the ground”, the statement said.
Russia began its campaign of air strikes in Syria last September, tipping the balance in favour of the Syrian government and allowing it to recapture territory from rebels.
“I consider the mission set for the defence ministry and the armed forces on the whole has been accomplished,” Mr Putin said in a meeting at the Kremlin.
“I am therefore ordering the defence ministry to begin the withdrawal of the main part of our military force from the Syrian Arab Republic from tomorrow.”
Mr Putin is effectively saying “job done” in Syria. He is clear, though, that a Russian air base and a naval base will remain, so this is not a total military pull-out.
Coinciding with the Syria peace talks, it is yet another sign of Mr Putin’s mastery of diplomatic showmanship.
Russia has about 30 combat aircraft in Syria and a small ground component protecting them, along with an unspecified number of Russian advisers and special forces on the ground, operating with the Syrian military.
Russia’s intervention has achieved its main goals – consolidating President Assad’s position, enabling his forces to re-take key pieces of strategic territory and ensuring that Mr Assad remains a factor in any future Syrian settlement.
Mr Putin said that Russia’s Hmeimim air base in Latakia province and its Mediterranean naval base at Tartus would continue to operate as normal. He said both must be protected “from land, air and sea”.
Syria’s opposition cautiously welcomed the Russian announcement.
“If there is seriousness in implementing the withdrawal, it will give the [peace] talks a positive push,” said Salim al-Muslat, spokesman for the opposition umbrella group, the High Negotiations Committee.
The US also gave a guarded response.
“We will have to see exactly what Russia’s intentions are,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
What did Russia achieve in Syria?
- Russian aircraft flew more than 9,000 sorties
- Destroyed 209 oil production and transfer facilities
- Helped Syrian government troops to retake 400 settlements
- Helped Damascus to regain control over more than 10,000 sq km (3,860 sq miles) of territory
Source: Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, quoted by Russian media
Separately, US officials quoted by Reuters news agency said Washington had received no advance warning of Mr Putin’s statement.
Speaking in October last year, Mr Putin said Russia aimed to “stabilise the legitimate authority” of President Assad by intervening and “create conditions for a political compromise”.