Russia’s main troops will withdraw from Syria beginning Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday. The Russian leader said he had achieved his goals after the Kremlin began airstrikes in Syria in late September, the BBC reported.
Putin spoke with Syrian President Bashar Assad about his decision, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed. The sudden announcement, close to the five-year anniversary of the conflict, comes as peace talks in Geneva continued Monday. Western leaders have accused Putin of using Russian airstrikes to prop up the regime of longtime ally Assad.
Russia’s economy has been badly battered following the drop in oil prices and continuing Western economic sanctions over the Russian actions in Ukraine. Low oil prices have forced the Kremlin to cut back its military budget by 5 percent in 2016.
“I think that the tasks set to the defense ministry are generally fulfilled. That is why I order to begin withdrawal of most of our military group from Syria starting from tomorrow,” Putin said, according to Russian news agency TASS. “Besides, our military, soldiers and officers demonstrated professionalism, teamwork and ability to organize combat work far away from their territory, having no common borders with the theater of war.”