Russia has begun withdrawing its military forces from Syria. The plan is to withdraw forces over the coming weeks. The aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov and the supporting navel group has left the Mediterranean.
Valery Gerasimov, military chief, said, “In accordance with the decision of the supreme commander of the Russian armed forces, [President] Vladimir Putin, the Russian defence ministry is beginning the reduction of the armed deployment to Syria.”
Opinion is divided on whether the aircraft carrier added anything to the conflict, or if it was just there in a symbolic capacity.
The order to reduce military force was given on the 29th December which coincided with the announcement of a Russia and Turkish led ceasefire. Although groups such as Islamic State are not included in the ceasefire, it is believed the Russian president is more confident that Assad, Syria’s president is in military control of the country.
A withdrawal last March had to be halted as fighting intensified in the conflict. If the peace holds peace talks will begin in Kazakhstan in a few weeks time.
Although the navel group is withdrawing, Russia still has S-300 and S-400 air defences in Syria.
Russia launched a major air campaign against forces hostile to the Syrian government in September 2015. It turned the tide in favour of the government and only 23 Russian soldiers had been killed. This defied U.S predictions that Russia would get bogged down in the conflict.
Troops loyal to Assad drove the rebels from Aleppo in what is the biggest victory in the six-year war to date. Russia used army units to aid the fight, and jets from the Mediterranean coast.
The Kremlin is now pushing for a political solution to the conflict.
Some ambassadors believe it was Iranian artillery as much as Russian jets that brought victory in Aleppo.