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Russia in Syria

Russia says it has begun military withdrawal from Syria

On Friday, Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov announced that Moscow has begun the drawdown of its forces in Syria, starting with the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier and accompanying ships. Russia has been lending military support, mostly air power, to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since 2015, with the majority of sorties leaving from the Hemeimeem airbase in Syria and one in Iran, but Russia has launched airstrikes from the Admiral Kuznetsov since mid-November. This was the aircraft carrier's first combat mission, and it lost two fighter jets, both of which crashed into the sea, one in November and the other last month.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the drawdown on Dec. 29, a day before a cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey took effect. Russia's air power is credited with turning Syria's bloody civil war in Assad's favor. It is unclear how much of a military presence Moscow plans to maintain in Syria. This isn't Russia's first "withdrawal" from Syria, BBC News notes. A few warplanes were flown out after Putin announced an earlier drawdown in March 2016.