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Russia orders surprise withdrawal from Syria

A boy gestures as he sits with others on a pick-up truck in the rebel held Douma neighborhood of Damascus, Syria. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh.

Russia orders surprise withdrawal from Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his military to start withdrawing the “main part” of its forces from Syria.

In a surprise move Putin said the Russian intervention had largely achieved its objectives and would start withdrawing forces from Tuesday.

It comes as fresh attempts are made in Geneva at resolving the five-year Syrian conflict.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is aligned with Russia, said in a statement he had agreed to the move and it was “in accordance with the situation on the ground”.

Russia began its campaign of air strikes last September and in doing so tipped the balance in favour of the Syrian government.

Putin addressed a meeting at the Kremlin and said: “I consider the mission set for the defence ministry and the armed forces on the whole has been accomplished”.

“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.”

It is not a total military pull-out as a Russian air base and naval base will remain.

Meanwhile the UN’s envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has described the latest peace talks as a “moment of truth” with no option to continue to the talks or return to war.

 

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