Russia announces the drawing down of its military presence in Syria as part of ceasefire
Russian Sukhoi Su-25 ground attack aircraft take off from the Hmeimim military base in Latakia province, Syria on March 16, 2016. (AFP/Vadim Grishankin)
"In accordance with the decision of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, (President) Vladimir Putin, the Russian Defense Ministry is beginning to reduce its armed forces deployment in Syria," TASS news agency quoted Valery Gerasimov as saying.
Gerasimov further said the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier and accompanying ships deployed to waters off Syria would be the first equipment to be pulled out.
Andrei Kartapolov, Russia's main commander in Syria, also said Friday that "the tasks set for the aircraft carrier group during its military mission have been fulfilled."
Moscow currently has sufficient air defense capabilities in Syria thanks to its S-300 and S-400 systems deployed in the war-torn country, he added.
Since September 2015, Moscow has been engaged in a military campaign in support of the Syrian army in its fight against extremist groups.
At the talks, Moscow was representing the Syrian government, while Ankara was negotiating on behalf of the militants it has been supporting since 2011 in favor of ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The ceasefire was later ratified in a UN Security Council resolution. Russia, along with Turkey and Iran, are currently pushing for peace talks to be held later this month in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana.
Amid Russia's efforts to boost the countrywide truce, Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said Friday that the country's forces and their allies were fighting to take the city of al-Bab close to the Turkish border.
Turkey has deployed expeditionary forces to the Syrian soil in a so-called effort to fight the Daesh terror group. Damascus has slammed the move as a violation of Syria's sovereignty.
The Turkish deployment came after the Kurdish militiamen fighting Daesh refused to fall back away from the Turkish border after retaking some areas there from the group.
Turkey associates the Kurds with the outlawed anti-Ankara Kurdistan Workers' Party, thus branding them as terrorists.
Isik, meanwhile, lashed out at the United States for supporting the militia, known as the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), saying Turkey and the region were paying the price for the support.
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