Second batch of Russian aircraft leave Syrian airbase

Second batch of Russian aircraft leave Syrian airbase
2 min read
16 March, 2016
Moscow appears to be continuing its pull-out of Russian war planes and material from Syria as a second despatch of military equipment and warplanes left Latakia airbase for Russia.
Russian air raids have devastated huge parts of Syria [Anadolu]

Another batch of Russian aircraft have left their base in Syria's Latakia province bound for Russia on Wednesday morning.

A short clip was shared on social media showing war planes taking off from the base close to Syria's coast.

Russia's defence ministry said the new batch of aircraft included Su-25 war planes and is led by cargo plane - either a Tu-154 or Il-76 - carrying troops and military equipment.

"Another group of Russian aircraft took off from the airbase in Hmeimim heading to places of permanent deployment on the territory of the Russian Federation," the statement read.

The move follows similar a movement of Russia's air fleet from Syrian soil back home on Monday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin surprised many on Monday when he announced the withdrawal of a "bulk" of Russia's Syrian force back to Russia.

However, Russian war planes have continued air raids on Islamic State group posts in Palmyra province on Tuesday.

Moscow will also keep its port facility in Tartous and airbase in Latakia along with a thousand-man contingent and aircraft.

This opens up the prospect of fresh air raids against Syria's rebels in the coming months.

Destruction

Russia began its air campaign in Syria on 30 September, initially claiming its intention was to hit Islamic State group units and other extremist groups.

However, the vast majority of its raids have targeted Syrian rebels in Aleppo, Idlib, Daraa and other cities, leaving IS largely unscathed.

At least 1,700 civilians have been killed in Russia air raids. Dozens of schools, hospitals and bakeries have also been destroyed, while bombing has forced hundreds of thousands more Syrians from their bombed out homes.

Putin claimed the withdrawal comes after Russia achieved the majority of its objectives in Syria. However, the country's rival factions are largely in deadlock with possibilities for Syria's rebels to make advances in key areas following the Russian withdrawal.

Meanwhile Damascus claims that the decision was agreed between President Bashar al-Assad and Putin beforehand.

Bouthaina Shaaban, a presidential adviser, has described the step as "positive" although the regime is thought to be hugely surprised and dissapointed with Russia's withdrawal.

"The Russian step wasn't surprising or worrying to the Syrian government as it was discussed with the Syrian government and the sides concerned on the ground. The issue was carefully studied," she said.