Russian President Vladimir Putin said that over the last few days 1,140 Russian soldiers have been withdrawn from the Middle Eastern country, RIA Novosti reports.
“They are all people who have experience and have been tested in combat,” the Russian president said during a meeting with military university graduates in the Kremlin. He gave the order to withdraw when he visited the Khmeimim air base. “This withdrawal is underway now,” he noted.
14 helicopters and 13 planes have also returned to Russia.
The experience gained by the Russian soldiers in Syria will be used to train other soldiers in future, Putin added.
Previously Putin had repeatedly spoken about withdrawing troops from Syria or reducing the number of groups stationed there. In March 2016 during a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, he gave the order to begin withdrawing the greater part of the Russian presence in Syria.
At the end of December that year, during a meeting with the same ministers, Putin consented to the defense minister’s suggestion that the military presence in Syria should be reduced.
On December 11, 2017, the Putin traveled to Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base in Syria and gave the order for the withdrawal of troops to begin. “The task of fighting with the armed bandits here in Syria is a task which needed to be dealt with through large-scale use of the Armed Forces. Overall it has been dealt with, and dealt with admirably,” he emphasized.
Despite the withdrawal of part of the group, a Russian contingent remains in Syria. “It would be reasonable to assume that our country’s presence in Syria will persist for as long as it is needed by the legitimate Syrian government and the forces friendly to them,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in the middle of May.
The Russian operation in Syria began on September 30, 2015. According to the Defense Ministry, 47 Russians have been killed during the operation. Furthermore, on March 6 an AN-26 military transport plane crashed while coming in to land at the Khmeimim Air Base, killing 39 people, 33 of them passengers.