Home >> World

Putin orders withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria as peace talks commence

Russian president Vladimir Putin has declared that he is withdrawing the majority of Russian forces from Syria, saying the six-month military intervention had largely achieved its objective.

The news was relayed personally to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, in a telephone call from Putin, followed a meeting in the Kremlin with the Russian foreign and defence ministers. Putin said the pullout, scaling back an intervention that started at the end of September, is due to start on Tuesday.

Putin and Assad agreed that Moscow would maintain an airforce facility in Syria to assist in monitoring the progress of a ceasefire in the war-torn country.

Russian ambassador to the United Nations (UN) said that the country's decision to begin withdrawing from Syria will help Moscow to intensify its efforts to reach a political settlement.

The move would increase the pressure on President Assad to negotiate "a political transition," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

Russia sent more than 50 fighter planes to carry out strikes across the Syria arguing that it was targeting terrorist groups including Islamic State jihadists.

However, the move was lambasted by the West and its regional allies, who insisted that Moscow was bombing more moderate rebels fighting Assad.

A temporary ceasefire between Assad's forces and opponents in Syria introduced on February 27 has largely held, but it does not cover the IS and Nusra front groups.

Moscow's Hmeimim air base in Syria and its Tartus naval facility would remain functioning and that some military contingents would stay behind, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.