Russia will start pulling out its troops from Syria as they have defeated Islamic State (IS) terrorists, President Vladimir Putin said during a surprise visit to Khmeimim Airbase in Syria’s Latakia province on Monday.
“I order the Defence Ministry and the chief of the General Staff to begin the pullout of the Russian military group to permanent locations,” Putin told an audience of military personnel, Tass reports.
But he warned that if IS terrorists tried to rear their heads in Syria again, Russia will strike them as “they have never seen before”.
The conditions are favourable for a political settlement in Syria under the auspices of the United Nations and refugees are returning home, he said.
Putin, who arrived early on Monday, met his Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, and Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu at the airbase which houses Russian forces assisting Syria in the battle against IS.
While most of the troops will be returning home, Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria will continue its work and Russia will continue to use Khmeimim Airbase and the Syrian port of Tartus, which provides technical support for the Russian Navy.
Putin said the deaths and losses sustained by Russian troops in the anti-terror fight will only strengthen Moscow’s resolve to wipe terrorism in all forms.
Congratulating Russian troops for routing IS together with the Syrian army, he said: “You are coming home with a victory, to your relatives, parents, wives, children and friends. Your Motherland is waiting for you, my friends. Have a safe trip home and thank you for your service.”
Assad thanked Putin for the Russian army’s assistance in defeating terrorists.
“The achievements that have occurred are very significant and very important for us … the destruction of militants of IS is crucial for the entire world. We coped with that,” Assad said.
“On behalf of the entire people of the Syrian Arab Republic, I express deep gratitude for this role that your Armed Forces have played. The victories that were achieved concerned both our state and the neighbouring countries,” he said.