Putin orders start of withdrawal of Russian troops in Syria

Putin orders start of withdrawal of Russian troops in Syria

Putin was also cited as telling Assad he hoped that it would be possible to launch the work of the Syrian Congress on National Dialogue and that he would discuss the matter in forthcoming meetings with the presidents of Egypt and Turkey.

Putin arrived at the Hmeymim airfield in the coastal city of Latakia earlier in the day on a surprise visit where he met his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad, reports Xinhua news agency. The civil war that erupted in 2011 has killed 400,000 people and caused millions of others to flee their homes. He added that within two years, the Russian and Syrian armies "have defeated the toughest group of worldwide terrorists".

"The task of fighting armed bandits here in Syria, a task that it was essential to solve with the help of extensive use of armed force, has for the most part, been solved and solved spectacularly", Putin said, in remarks broadcast on Russian television.

In his first visit to the airbase since Russian warplanes secretly flew to Syria in late 2015, Putin ordered his Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu to begin the "withdrawal of Russian troop contingents" back to their permanent bases.

"I congratulate you!" Putin told Russian servicemen gathered at the base. It is also the first visit by a foreign head of state to war-ravaged Syria since its bloodletting started almost seven years ago.

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Russian Federation began its bombing raids in September 2015 in support of Assad's beleaguered forces.

The airbase served as the main foothold for the air campaign.

Russia's military said on Thursday it had accomplished its mission of defeating Islamic State in Syria, and there were no remaining settlements there under the group's control.

There has been an "unprecedented" involvement by Russia's air force in recent days, he said, with warplanes making 100 sorties and staging up to 250 strikes daily.

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