President Vladimir Putin today ordered Russian forces in Syria to start withdrawing, saying that after a two year military campaign, Moscow and Damascus had achieved their mission of destroying Daesh.
Putin made the announcement during a surprise visit to Russia's Hmeymim air base in Syria's Latakia Province where he held talks with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and addressed Russian military servicemen.
Russia first launched air strikes in Syria in September 2015 in its biggest Middle East intervention in decades, turning the tide of the conflict in Al-Assad's favour while dramatically increasing Moscow's own influence in the Middle East.
Russia would, however, keep its Hmeymim air base as well as its naval facility at Tartous "on a permanent basis", Putin added.
"The task of fighting armed bandits here in Syria, a task that it was essential to solve with the help of extensive use of armed force, has for the most part, been solved and solved spectacularly," Putin said, in remarks broadcast on Russian television.
"I congratulate you!" Putin told Russian servicemen gathered at the base.