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Monday, March 14, 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin orders withdrawal of the country's military forces from Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin orders withdrawal of the
military forces from Syria during the Kremlin meeting
(Image: Reuters)
In a surprise move Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered on Monday, 14 March, the withdrawal of "the main part" of Russian military forces from Syria to start from Tuesday.

During the Monday meeting in Kremlin Mr. Putin told the government and the Defense Minister Mr. Shoigu that Russian military intervention in Syria has largely achieved its goals and objectives and that therefore it could be finalized.

"I consider mission set for the Defense Ministry and the armed forces of the whole has been accomplished," Vladimir Putin stated during the Kremlin meeting. "I am therefore ordering the Defense Ministry to begin the withdrawal of the main part of our military force from the Syrian Arab Republic from tomorrow," Russian leader added.

Meanwhile, Russian Hmeimim airbase and the Mediterranean port at Tartus would continue to operate as usually and have to be protected "from land, air and sea", Mr. Putin added.

Russian is a key ally of the Syrian President Bashar Al-Asad and has started its military campaign in the country in September 2015, shifting the balance of powers in favor of the presidential forces and helping Asad to regain control over the territories previously controlled by the rebels. Officially the aim of Russian airstrikes was declared to be fight against the jihadist ISIS group, though most of the massive airstrikes conducted by Russian warplanes occurred mostly in the areas controlled by the anti-Asad, oppositional forces, where ISIS is actually not present. The airstrikes launched by Russia backed the military offensives of the Asad forces on the ground. Human Rights groups and activists and monitors in the area have been accusing Russia of killing thousands of civilians in the Syrian cities, backing the Asad forces.
Russian airstrikes in Syria
(Image: Japan Times)

The decision of Russian President Vladimir Putin to start withdrawal of the main part of Russian military forces from Syria came on the first day of the dramatic peace negotiations aimed at ending the five year civil war in Syria that has already left more than 250,000 Syrians killed and hundreds of thousands wounded and forces millions of Syrian citizens to flee their country.

Syrian peace talks held in Geneva, Switzerland, have started on Monday, 14 March, as the representatives of the pro-Asad forces and the umbrella oppositional organization HNC (High Negotiation Committee) have arrived in Geneva. UN special envoy for the issues of the Syrian conflict Staffan de Mistura declared during his official statement that the ongoing talks are extremely important and could be "the moment of truth". He also added that the situation is especially dramatic, as there is actually no plan B in case if these negotiations will fail like the previous talks in Vienna failed. The only alternative to these talks is the resuming of war in the country, he added.

Meanwhile, the situation in Syria remains tense despite the recently reached ceasefire agreement, brokered by UN, USA and Russia, that declared cessation of hostilities by the pro-government forces and rebels as well. Though, the both sides were accused of committing some violations of the ceasefire. In addition to that the fight against ISIS and other terrorist groups operating in the region continues, as the ceasefire does not apply for ISIS and Al-Nusra Front.