Russia scaling down forces in Syria
Russia-'s military says it has begun scaling down its deployment to Syria with its sole aircraft carrier the first to quit the conflict zone.
Moscow: Russia's military says it has begun scaling down its deployment to Syria with its sole aircraft carrier the first to quit the conflict zone.
President Vladimir Putin ordered the reduction of forces in Syria on December 29 as he announced a ceasefire between the government and rebel forces, which has since dampened down the fighting.
"In accordance with the decision of the supreme commander of the Russian armed forces, Vladimir Putin, the Russian defence ministry is beginning the reduction of the armed deployment to Syria,"
Russian news agencies quoted military chief Valery Gerasimov as saying on Friday.
Gerasimov said the naval group headed by Moscow's sole aircraft carrier - Admiral Kuznetsov - would be the first to leave the area.
"The tasks set for the aircraft carrier group during its military mission have been fulfilled," said Andrei Kartapolov, Russia's main commander in Syria.
Kartapolov said Russia still had sufficient air defence capabilities in Syria thanks to its S-300 and S-400 systems deployed in the war-torn country.
Putin announced a partial withdrawal of Russian forces in March 2016, but Moscow later had to ramp up its military presence again as fighting intensified.
Russia boosted its firepower on land in Syria and off the coast in the Mediterranean Sea in September 2015 in support of government forces targeting the country's second city of Aleppo and other locations.
The military deployment helped turn the tide in favour of the Syrian government's ailing forces.