Russian President Vladimir Putin made a monumental visit to Syria on Monday, declaring victory and also announcing the partial withdrawal of Russian troops from the country.
Putin’s visit to the Hemeimeem air base in Latakia Province marks the first visit of a head of state to Syria since the civil war began seven years ago, The Associated Press reports.
“You have shown the best qualities of a Russian soldier — courage, valor, team spirit, decisiveness and excellent skills,” Putin said during a speech Monday at the base. “The Motherland is proud of you.”
Over the last two years, Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war has turned the tide in favor of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with a relatively small number of military assets, specifically 30-50 combat aircraft and 16-40 helicopters. And unlike the Soviet Union’s intervention in Afghanistan, Russia has achieved essentially all of its goals for the region in roughly two years.
The Syrian government now has control of 90 percent of the country, having beat U.S.-backed rebels groups and the Islamic State into submission with major assistance from Russia and Iran.
“Here in Syria, far away from our borders, you helped the Syrian people to preserve their state and fend off attacks by terrorists,” Putin said. “You have dealt a devastating blow to those who blatantly threatened our country. We will never forget about the victims who fell in the fight against terror both here and in Russia.”
As part of the speech, Putin ordered a withdrawal of a large number of Russian troops.
“Friends, the Motherland is waiting for you,” Putin said. “You are coming back home with victory!”
And yet, some Russian presence will remain at Hemeimeem and the naval installation at Tartus.
Although Putin ordered a similar withdrawal in 2016, a large number of Russian forces remained behind.
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