Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the start of pullout of Russian military from Syria.
Putin said on Monday that the planned drawdown, which is set to start on Tuesday, could serve as a stimulus for Syria’s political talks.
The Russian president, who announced the decision in a televised meeting with Russia’s foreign and defense ministries, hailed Moscow’s nearly six months of air campaign in Syria as a positive step, saying it created conditions for peace talks.
“With the tasks set before the Defense Ministry and the military largely fulfilled, I’m ordering the Defense Minister to start the pullout of the main part of our group of forces in Syria, beginning tomorrow,” Putin said.
The Russian leader, however, did not elaborate on the number of planes and troops to be withdrawn from Syria in the first phase of the pullout.
Putin said Russia’s two major military bases in Syria, the airbase in Hemeimeem in the coastal province of Latakia and the naval facility in the port of Tartous, will remain operational.
The unexpected decision came hours after peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition resumed in the Swiss city of Geneva.
United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who mediates the talks, refused to comment on Putin’s decision.
Russia started its military campaign in Syria on September 30, 2015, based on a request from the Syrian government.
The airstrikes have greatly boosted the morale of the Syrian army as it has managed to retake key areas from militants across the country with Russian support.