President Vladimir Putin has ordered the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, where Russia has been bombing insurgent groups and supporting the Syrian government for the past five months, Russian state media reported.
Putin said Monday the removal of the “main part” of Russian military in Syria will begin Tuesday.
“I think that the task given to the ministry of defense has been mainly accomplished,” the Russian president said at a meeting with Russia’s defense and foreign-affairs ministers.
The decision comes as the various Syrian factions began UN-mediated peace talks in Switzerland. Russian state media said Putin’s decision was made with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s agreement.
Last October, Russia announced an air campaign against targets in Syria it described as terrorist organizations, including the Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliated groups. But the first spate of airstrikes appeared to hit areas where the Sunni militant group was not present, and were aimed at territory controlled by rebel groups opposed to Assad, a longtime ally of Moscow.
Putin’s decision on Monday comes just over two weeks after a cessation of hostilities between the various factions involved in Syria’s civil war took effect. Officials said the accord, brokered by the United States, Russia, and European and Arab nations, led to a significant reduction in violence, despite some violations.
The Syrian government, backed by Russian airstrikes, has recently made gains in capturing territory held by both rebel groups and Islamic State militants.
This is a developing story and will be updated.