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Putin orders partial troop withdrawal from Syria after ISIS suffers massive defeats
Russian leader Vladimir Putin first embroiled his nation in the Syrian conflict in 2015, coming in on the side of then and current Syrian president Bashar al-Assad against rebels seeking to oust him. Now, however, Putin says the war in Syria has been won.
In a surprise visit to Syria on Monday, Putin told his troops that “a significant part of the Russian troop contingent located in Syria will be returning home to Russia.”
This comes less than a week after Putin announced his intention to run for a fourth term as president of Russia. He is expected to win the election with little opposition.
Putin Thanks His Troops
The Russian leader’s arrival at Hmeimim Airbase in Latakia province – an Assad government stronghold – was met by al-Assad, who was seen warmly welcoming Putin with handshakes and hugs. Putin’s speech to the troops was televised on Syrian networks.
“I have taken a decision,” Putin told his troops. “‘I order the defense minister and the chief of general staff to start withdrawing the Russian group of troops to their permanent bases.”
He also mentioned that Russia had helped the Syrian army defeat the “most battle-ready group of international terrorists,” a nod to the Islamic State.
“On the whole the task has been completed. And completed brilliantly,” Putin said. He thanked the troops for what he said was the defense of Russia, and keeping Syria a “sovereign independent state.”
“Our homeland thanks you, my friends. Have a safe trip. I thank you for your service,” he concluded.
What Was Russia Doing in Syria?
For the last two years, Russia had been helping to prop up the pro-Russian al-Assad with air support and upwards of 10,000 troops spread across the war-torn country, which has been fighting rebels since 2011. Under Russia’s air cover, al-Assad’s forces have been able to regain control of much of Syria from rebels and Islamic State fighters.
Russia has also been supplying weapons to the Syrian military in their fight against the anti-Assad rebels.
Additionally, as part of the United Nations Security Council, Russia has blocked several U.N. resolutions that criticized al-Assad’s regime.
Russia’s ongoing assistance has created a near-certain victory for al-Assad, who will retain control of the country for now.
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