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12 December, 2017 12:39:02 AM

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Putin orders partial troop withdrawal in Syria

AFP
Putin orders partial troop withdrawal in Syria
Russian President Vladimir Putin (C), his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad (L), and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (R) inspect a military parade during their visit to the Russian air base in Hmeimim in the northwestern Syrian province of Latakia yesterday. AFP Photo

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin on yesterday ordered the partial withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, during a surprise visit to the war-torn country, reports AFP.

Putin arrived at Russia’s Hmeimim airbase in Latakia province, a government stronghold, where he was welcomed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the two men were pictured smiling, shaking hands and hugging.

Putin, who announced last week he would be seeking a fourth Kremlin term in a presidential poll in March, said he had ordered Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to start a partial withdrawal.

“I have taken a decision: a significant part of the Russian troop contingent located in Syria is returning home to Russia,” he said in a televised speech to troops at the base.

Russia first intervened in the conflict in 2015, staging air strikes in support of its ally Damascus targeting both the Islamic State group (IS) and other jihadists as well as rebels fighting government troops.

Putin said the troops had helped the Syrian army crush the “most battle-ready group of international terrorists,” apparently referring to IS.

“On the whole the task has been completed. And completed brilliantly.”

Putin said last month that efforts to end the war were entering a “new stage” as the focus shifted from military intervention to political reforms.

He said both Hmeimim and Russia’s naval facility in Tartus would continue to function and warned that Russia would repel any fresh attacks by militants.

“If terrorists rear their heads again we will inflict the blows that they have not seen yet,” he said.

The Kremlin strongman thanked Russian troops for defending Russia from terrorism and helping Syria remain a “sovereign independent state”.

Putin said the conflict proved that Russia’s armed forces, including intelligence officers, pilots, sailors, special forces, military police, sappers and military advisers, were on top form, and he also praised the country’s defence industry.

“Our homeland thanks you, my friends,” he said.

“Have a safe trip. I thank you for your service.”

After his speech Putin inspected the troops who goose-stepped to the tune of a popular Soviet-era song about World War II.

Putin made the Syria stopover en route to Egypt where he arrived later Monday.

From there, Putin is scheduled to travel to Turkey for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Last week Putin announced he would be standing in the March presidential election that he is expected to effortlessly win, and his lighting visit to Syria can be expected to play well with the voters.

The size of the Russian deployment in Syria is not known but independent Russian military expert Pavel Felgenhauer has told AFP that up to 10,000 troops and private contractors could have taken part in the conflict.

EA

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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