Alwaght-Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the withdrawal of the country’s forces from Syria starting Tuesday.
He however pointed out that Russia will keep a military presence at the port of Tartus and at the Khmeimim airbase to observe ceasefire agreements. “I consider the objectives that have been set for the Defense Ministry to be generally accomplished. That is why I order to start withdrawal of the main part of our military group from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic starting from tomorrow,” Putin said on Monday during a meeting with Shoigu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “In a short period of time Russia has created a small but very effective military group in Syria. The effective work of our military forces allowed the peace process to begin,” Putin said, adding that “Russian government troops and [Syria's] patriotic forces have changed the situation in the fight with international terrorism and have ceased the initiative.” Meanwhile Russian President Vladimir Putin held a telephone conversation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the initiative of the Russian side, the Kremlin press service reported on Monday. "The Russian president said that the principled tasks, which were set for the Russian Armed Forces in Syria, are accomplished. It was agreed to withdraw the main part the aviation group of the Russian Aerospace Forces. At the same time, the Russian side will preserve a flight operations facility on the Syrian territory to control the observation of the regime of the cessation of hostilities," the statement reads. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said to the Interfax news agency that an important turning point has been achieved in the fight against terrorists in Syria. "In general, with the support from our aviation, the Syrian troops have liberated 400 populated areas and more than 10,000 square kilometers of territory. [...] The number of the organizations currently engaged in this work as a result of the negotiating process is 42. In addition, the number of the residential communities that have joined the ceasefire regime is more than 40 now," Shoigu said during his meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Moscow launched its anti-terror campaign in Syria on September 30 last year. Russia’s participation in the operation, according to a previous statement by Putin, has its basis in international law and has been conducted “in accordance with an official request from the president of the Syrian Arab Republic [Bashar Assad].” The Russian Air Force has been carrying out airstrikes against ISIS and other terrorist targets in the region, eliminating military equipment, communication centers, vehicles, arms and fuel depots.