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Putin says 'Syria mission' accomplished, orders withdrawal of Russian forces
Tuesday March 15, 2016 11:16 AM, IANS

Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his military to start withdrawing the "main part" of its forces in Syria from Tuesday.

He said the Russian intervention had largely achieved its objectives, BBC reported.

"I consider the mission set for the defence ministry and the armed forces on the whole has been accomplished," Putin said on Monday night in a meeting at the Kremlin.

"I am therefore ordering the defence ministry to begin the withdrawal of the main part of our military force from the Syrian Arab Republic from tomorrow (Tuesday)."

Russia began its campaign of air strikes in Syria last September.

Putin's decision comes amid fresh peace talks which started in Geneva on Monday aimed at resolving the five-year Syrian conflict.

Putin said that Russia's Hmeimim air base in Latakia province and its Mediterranean naval base at Tartus would continue to operate as normal. He said both must be protected "from land, air and sea".

The move was welcomed by the US and also the Syrian opposition.

However, US officials said Washington had received no advance warning of Putin's statement.

"We will have to see exactly what Russia's intentions are," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

In the latest fighting, Syrian government forces are reported to have advanced on so-called Islamic State's (IS) positions near the world heritage site of Palmyra.

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