Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow currently sees no need for a heavy military presence in Syria, but it will continue its counter-terrorism battle in the Arab state.
“There is no need for such a widespread use of the Russian armed forces in Syria, as it was before, although we have two stationing sites, and we, of course, will continue the fight against terrorism, including in the territory of Syria, if necessary we will work there selectively,” Putin said at a meeting with Russian lawmakers on Monday.
Russia has two bases in Syria, the Hmeimim airbase in Latakia Province and a naval facility in the port city of Tartus.
Putin also referred to the process of Russian forces’ pullout from Syria after the collapse of Daesh, noting that the scale of Moscow’s counter-terrorism activities in the Arab country would be smaller than it previously was.
He rejected “a wide use of all components of our armed forces,” saying, “That is why the withdrawal took place, since so much equipment and personnel are no longer required there. At least not required now.”
Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Tuesday that Moscow had begun establishing a permanent presence at its two military bases in Syria.
“Last week, the Commander-in-Chief approved the structure and the bases in Tartus and in Hmeimim. We have begun forming a permanent presence there,” Russia’s RIA news agency quoted Shoigu as saying.
Earlier this month, Putin ordered the partial withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria after government troops, backed by Russian air force and Iranian military advisors, liberated all areas controlled by Daesh and declared victory over the Takfiri group.
In a meeting with his Syrian counterpart, the Russian president hails the Syrian army’s achievements in the fight against Takfiri terrorists.
Russian jets have been conducting air raids against Daesh and other terrorist outfits inside Syria at the Damascus government’s request since September 2015.
Besides its role on the battlefield, Russia, along with Iran and Turkey, has been mediating a peace process between Syrian warring sides in the Kazakh capital, Astana, since January.
The latest round of Astana talks took place earlier this month, during which the three mediators as well as Syrian government delegates and the 20-member opposition team agreed to hold a Moscow-proposed “peace congress” in late January in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi as part of efforts to find a political solution to the six-year Syrian conflict.