Russian air force to complete withdrawal from Syria within 3 days

The head of Russia's air force said it should complete its withdrawal from Syria within three days, state news agency TASS reported Thursday.

"We'll accomplish the assigned mission within two or three days," General Viktor Bondarev said.

President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered the Russian military to withdraw the majority of its forces from Syria, saying their task there was "completely fulfilled."

More than 200 members of Russia's armed forces have been honoured for their actions in Syria, and at least another 300 are expected to receive such decorations, Bondarev said.

Numerous pilots will also be promoted to higher ranks for their service in Syria, he added.

Russia has said it will keep at least 800 servicemen, as well as some warplanes and powerful S-400 missile systems, in Syria to protect its airbase and naval facility there.

Russia began a bombing campaign against rebels in Syria less than six months ago to support that country's president, Bashar al-Assad, a longtime ally.

With Russia's support, al-Assad's military regained significant territory from rebel groups, while the United States - Russia's main geopolitical rival - reversed its calls for al-Assad's immediate removal, permitting him to stay as part of a peace deal.

Syria's civil war, which began with a government crackdown on a protest movement against al-Assad, has lasted more than five years and claimed the lives of at least 250,000 people.

Rebels in Syria have received support from some Middle Eastern and Western powers, including the United States, which accuse al-Assad's government of committing crimes against humanity, including mass killings of civilians.

Last month, Russia and the US brokered a ceasefire deal that appears to be predominantly holding. However, the extremist groups Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, were not included in the deal.

Last update: Thu, 17/03/2016 - 12:17

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