Russian Warplanes, Troops Arrive Home after Syrian Mission Accomplished

The majority of Russian forces operating in Syria, including Tu-22M3 long-range bombers and the Beriev A-50 AWACS plane, are arriving back home after successfully completing their mission and playing a key role in defeating the so-called  "Islamic State" (ISIS, Daesh, IS), RT reported.

On Tuesday, the first group of Russian military aircraft and troops left Syria following President Vladimir Putin’s order. The Russian leader announced the withdrawal of a “significant part” of the Russian military contingent during his surprise visit at Khmeimim Airbase in Syria’s Latakia province on Monday morning.

 A Russian military police battalion of the Southern Military District arrived aboard two cargo aircraft in the city of Makhachkala, in the North Caucasus Republic of Dagestan, the Defense Ministry said.

The first military aircraft to come back from the Syrian mission were Tu-22M3 bombers and the Beriev A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft. The long-range bombers landed at their home airbase in Russia’s Kaluga region after a short stop in North Ossetia on their way from Syria.

“Flight crews successfully accomplished tasks on delivering strikes on terrorists’ objects in the Syrian Arab Republic,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement. It did not elaborate on how many Tu-22M3 aircraft arrived at the base.

The A-50 arrived in Russia’s Ivanovo, where its pilots were congratulated on their “successful task performance.”

A total of 25 aircraft, as well as Russian special forces, military police and sapper teams are to leave Syria, where they have assisted government forces in the battle against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists since September 2015. On December 6, the Russian General Staff declared the liberation of Syria from IS, saying that “all terrorist units of ISIS” in the country had been destroyed.

After the withdrawal, Russia will continue to use Khmeimim Airbase and the Syrian port of Tartus, which provides technical support for the Russian Navy, and the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria will keep working.

Kremlin Spokesman Comments on Russian Troops Withdrawal from Syria

In the same context, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters,the terrorism situation in Syria is different from what it was in the previous months, so the decision to withdraw the main part of Russian troops from the country is not simply declaratory.

When asked if the Kremlin was wary about a possible counter attack by terrorists, similar to that which had happened in Palmyra, and if a large part of Russian troops was actually going to stay in Syria, while the withdrawal announcement was merely a pre-election political step, Peskov said: "Not in the least."

According to Itar Tass, He added that "today, the situation is totally different from what it was in the previous months and years."

The Russian presidential spokesman pointed out that on Monday, Putin had stated that the operation to save Syria and liberate it from terrorists was over so there was no longer need to use the capabilities of Russian troops. At the same time, Russia will keep its bases in Tartus and Hmeimim.

"As the president stressed, we do not rule out that terrorists may try to raise their head again, but in this case they will have to face strong and devastating blows like they have never seen," Peskov concluded.

When answering a question about filling the void in the Middle East left by the United States, Peskov said that "it's not about trying to fill a vacuum, there's no vacuum. Russia has long been present in the region and pursued its pragmatic interests and is oriented to mutually beneficial and mutually trusting cooperation", Sputnik reported.

On December 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria after over 2 years of an anti-terrorist aerial campaign conducted in the Arab Republic, with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu adding that the Russian military contingent had already begun to pullout from Syria, but the timetable of the withdrawal would be determined by the situation on the ground.