Putin orders Russian troops out of Syria

Vladimir Putin (Reuters)
Vladimir Putin (Reuters)

Vladimir Putin has ordered the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, saying his aims in the war-torn country have been "generally accomplished".

The pullout of the "main part" of the Russian military will start Tuesday (local time), Mr Putin told ministers gathered at the Kremlin in Moscow.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been notified. The Assad regime is an ally of Russia, which joined the fight in October last year with a series of air strikes.

At the time, Mr Putin said Russia was acting "preventatively, to fight and destroy militants and terrorists on the territories that they already occupy -- not wait for them to come to our house".

Russian troops will remain at the port of Tartous and the Hmeymim air base.

Mr Putin says Russia will now put more effort into the peace process.

"The effective work of our military created the conditions for the start of the peace process," said Mr Putin.

"With the participation of the Russian military... the Syrian armed forces and patriotic Syrian forces have been able to achieve a fundamental turnaround in the fight against international terrorism and have taken the initiative in almost all respects."

United Nations special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said yesterday there was no "plan B" for Syria if the current peace talks fail.

The opposition wants Mr Assad to step down, a demand the regime has called "sabotage".

More than 250,000 people have died and more than half the country's pre-war population of 22 million has been displaced. So many have fled the fighting, last year the UN estimated only 16.6 million were left.