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First Russian planes leave Syria

Tuesday, 15/03/2016 @ 10:32 am

First Russian planes leave Syria

First Russian planes leave Syria

Desk report:
Russian forces have started leaving Syria after Monday’s surprise withdrawal announcement by President Vladimir Putin, reports BBC.

The first group of aircraft left Hmeimim air base in Syria on Tuesday morning, the Russian defence ministry said (in Russian).

Western officials cautiously welcomed the move, saying it could pressure Syria’s government to engage in talks.

Peace talks aimed at resolving the conflict are entering a second day.

Meanwhile, a UN commission will present a report on war crimes in Syria later.

The Russian force reduction was announced during a meeting between Mr Putin and his defence and foreign ministers.

Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and his office sought to reject speculation there was a rift between the two countries, saying the move was mutually agreed.

The Russian air campaign started last September, tipping the balance in favour of the Syrian government and allowing it to recapture territory from rebels.

No details have been given on how many planes and troops would be withdrawn from the Hmeimim base, in Latakia province, or a deadline for completing the pullout.

“The first group of Russian planes has flown out of the Hmeimim air base for their permanent bases on the territory of the Russian Federation,” the defence ministry statement said.

Russian TV earlier showed aircraft being refuelled and crates being loaded with equipment.

Aircraft from the base would make the flight to Russia – more than 5,000km – in small groups each led by Il-76 or Tu-154 transport planes, the ministry added.

They would then go their separate ways to their own bases after crossing the Russian border, it said.

Su-24 tactical bombers, Su-25 attack fighters, Su-34 strike fighters and helicopters were returning home, the TV said.

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