Russia to reduce Syria presence by year's end: military
Russia's military plans to reduce its involvement in Syria this year as it is nearing the completion of its goals there, the General Staff chief said.
"Of course, there will be a decision taken by the commander in chief and the group (working in Syria) will be decreased," said Valery Gerasimov when asked whether Russia would be scaling back its forces in Syria by the end of the year.
"When we complete our tasks, military tasks. There is only a little left," Gerasimov said.
Asked about the extent of the pull-out, Gerasimov said it would be "extensive," though it was not clear if he was also referring to this year or a later date.
He said some military will be left behind even after Moscow scales back its involvement in bombing and combat.
"We will leave the Center for Reconciliation, our two military bases (in Tartus and Hmeimim) and several necessary structures to maintain the state which has developed at this time," said Gerasimov.
Putin this week hosted a round of diplomacy meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as the leaders of Turkey and Iran as he declared the Syrian crisis was entering "a new stage" after the country "has been saved as a state".
The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.
Moscow stepped into Syria's multi-front war in September 2015, sending planes to back the Assad regime and turning the military situation around in his favour.
The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.