Russia reduces its presence in Syria
Russia's military presence in Syria will be reduced, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the meeting with the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
"I agree with the proposal of the Defense Ministry to cut our military presence in the Syrian Republic, bearing in mind that we are definitely going to continue the fight against international terrorism and will keep supporting the legitimate Syrian government in the fight against terrorism," Sputnik cited Putin as saying.
"We will certainly implement the agreements we achieved, including on the development of bases of Russia's Armed Forces in Tartus and at the Hmeimim airfield," he added.
The President announced that a ceasefire agreement has been reached between Syrian government forces and "armed opposition groups."
"Three documents have been signed. The first is a document between the Syrian government and armed opposition for a ceasefire on the territory of Syria. The second document is a set of measures to verify the ceasefire. The third document is an announcement of their readiness to start peace talks," he said.
Both sides have agreed to enter peace talks, though Putin did not specify exactly which "armed opposition" groups he was referring to.
According to Putin, the agreement was reached after talks between Russia, Iran and Turkey.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the ceasefire would officially go into effect at midnight on the night of Dec. 29-30. Russia and Turkey will act as guarantors of the armistice.
A military observer of the TASS news agency, retired Colonel Viktor Litovkin, speaking with a correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that Russia's intention to reduce its military presence in Syria may be due to the agreements with Iran and Turkey on the armistice between Damascus and the official Syrian opposition. "It may also be associated with the hope that there will be military ceasefire in Syria, and everything will be resolved at the negotiating table, in Astana at first, then in Geneva, perhaps even in Washington. In such circumstances, such a large number of Russian troops is not necessary to maintain peace in Syria," he said.
"After completing the task of demining Aleppo, sappers will no longer be needed there in the current amount. Perhaps, the number of military police, which is protecting the hospital, will be reduced. The number of aircraft and ships in the Mediterranean Sea can be reduced as well. It depends on the combat situation. If the number of problem decreases, the number of our troops will also decrease," Victor Litovkin stressed.
The deputy head of the Council of the Russian Diplomats Association, Andrey Baklanov, in turn, noticed that Russia is using in Syria "the most advanced system of combat operations abroad." In particular, it provides an extremely efficient and flexible approach, as well as a rapid response to changes in the military-political situation. We have such means of warfare and delivery of the necessary equipment and weapons, which make it possible to scale back our presence in the combat zone fast enough," he explained.
Andrey Baklanov believes that the liberation of Aleppo has become a prerequisite for reducing the number of Russian troops in Syria. "It made the negotiating process possible. In parallel, a new negotiating platform is planned to be formed in Astana. Considering these factors, we see that the ceasefire is becoming more stable. If there are no hostilities, it creates certain prerequisites to reduce the number of our soldiers in the territory of Syria," the diplomat stressed.