Russia will keep a naval and an air base in Syria capable of carrying out strikes against “terrorists” if required after a partial military pull-out announced by President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.
Putin on Monday ordered “a significant part” of Moscow’s military contingent to start pulling out of Syria, declaring their work largely done.
Putin, who polls show will be re-elected comfortably in March, made the announcement during a surprise visit to the Russian Hmeymim air base, where he met President Bashar al-Assad and addressed Russian forces.
“Thanks to the fact that the operation to save Syria and the liberation of Syrian land from terrorists have been completed, there is no longer a need for broad-scale combat strength,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
But he added that Russia will keep the Hmeymim air base in Syria’s Latakia Province and its naval facility in the port of Tartous.
“The President stressed that the terrorists might try to ‘walk tall’ again in Syria. If that happens, crushing blows will be carried out,” Peskov said.