Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a surprise visit to a Russian base in Syria and ordered his troops to start withdrawing from the war-torn country.
Syrian state TV reported that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Putin at Khmeimim Air Base, southeast of Latakia, on Monday morning.
Russia’s state news agency Novosti cited Putin as saying that “in general, the combat work in this territory is completed by the complete eradication of terrorists”.
Putin made the stop in Syria on his way to Egypt, where he met with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi later on Monday.
As the Syrian government’s main ally in the war, Russia started its intervention in September 2015, after an official request by the Syrian government for military help against rebel groups.
Since then, Russia mainly conducted air strikes against groups opposed to the government, including the Syrian National Coalition, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), al-Nusra Front, and others.
In addition, Russian military advisors and special operations forces are stationed in Syria. Prior to the intervention, Russian involvement in the war had mainly consisted of supplying the Syrian army.