Russia changing make-up of strike force in Syria


File photo for the Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking to his air forces

The Russian Defence Ministry said on Thursday it had started changing the make-up of its strike force in Syria as part of a previously announced partial drawdown, Russian news agencies reported.

The ministry was cited as saying that the first six SU-24 bombers had already been withdrawn, but that four SU-25 ground attack aircraft had flown out to Russia’s Hmeymim air base in Latakia province as part of a planned rotation.

It said further aircraft would be withdrawn along with military personnel stationed at the base.

The head of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, said last week that a Russian naval force led by the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier had begun withdrawing from the east Mediterranean.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a ceasefire in Syria in late December and said Russia would pull back some of its forces in Syria, where its military intervention has turned the tide in favour of President Bashar al-Assad.

According to the agreement, Russia was expected to serve as guarantor of regimes compliance, while Turkey would guarantee commitment by rebel groups.

However, local sources reported clashes between opposition groups and government forces along the provincial boundary between Idlib and Hama. Also, sporadic clashes took place in southern Syria hours after the truce was announced.

Supported by Russia, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad seized control of the entire city of Aleppo last December. The opposition’s morale had ebbed as it became clear that no relief force was going to penetrate the army’s siege lines and no international agency was going to ground the Russian Air Force.

“The battle for Aleppo has ended with a victory for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and Russia,” human rights activist Louay al-Halabi told ARA News at the time.

The oppositions’ loss came after years of fighting, that claimed the lives of tens of thousands and razed much of Syria’s former financial capital.


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