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Putin orders the removal of Russian troops from Syria

Putin has been a supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad throughout the civil war.

Russia Putin Source: Alexei Druzhinin AP/PA Images

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR Putin has ordered the removal of Russian troops from Syria.

He made the announcement during a surprise visit to Russia’s airbase in Syria.

“I order the defence minister and the chief of general staff to start withdrawing the Russian group of troops to their permanent bases,” he said.

I have taken a decision: a significant part of the Russian troop contingent located in Syria is returning home to Russia.

Putin was welcomed at the base by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, among other officials.

He has long been a supporter of al-Assad, which is at odds with western countries that have called for the removal of the Syrian President.

Russia, along with Iran, is the key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Moscow’s military intervention inside Syria is widely seen as having tipped the balance in the civil war.

The Russian President was also due to visit Turkey today, for talks with Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The latest encounter between the two leaders comes at a time of intense diplomacy between Turkey and Russia, especially over Syria.

It will be their eighth face-to-face meeting this year.

Turkey, however, has backed the rebels seeking Assad’s ouster in a conflict that has left more than 330,000 dead.

But Russia and Turkey have been working together since a 2016 reconciliation deal ended a crisis caused by the shooting down of a Russian warplane over Syria.

In recent months, Turkey has markedly toned down its criticism of the Assad regime and focused on opposing a Syrian Kurdish militia seen by Ankara as a terror group.

© AFP 2017

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