The U.S. Department of Defense said Tuesday that they've seen fewer than 10 Russian aircraft leave Syria in the past 24 hours.
(Talk Media News) – A small number of Russian aircraft flew from Syria to Russia on Tuesday, following an order by Russian President Valdimir Putin to begin to the “withdrawal of the main part” of its military instillation in Syria.
The Su-34 bombers flew from the Khmeimim airbase in Latakia, Syria to the Voronezh region of Russia, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The U.S. Department of Defense said Tuesday that they’ve seen fewer than 10 Russian aircraft leave Syria in the past 24 hours. Russia deployed about 50 aircraft to the base when air operation began in September.
When making the order Monday, Putin announced that “objectives that have been set for the Defense Ministry to be generally accomplished.”
Russia entered the conflict in Syria as an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in September, and is seen by U.S. officials as responsible for moving the regime from a position of weakness to strength.
U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura called Putin’s move a “significant development” toward resolving the conflict which passes its fifth anniversary this week. Mistura said the withdrawal could send a message to the Assad regime that they must “play by the rules” with less Russian military might on their side.
The U.S. seemed more skeptical Tuesday. Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said the U.S. would ‘“wait and see” what Russia’s intentions are.
“We will assess Russia based on their actions, not words,” Cook said. “President Putin has said they’re going to conduct a partial withdrawal of their forces, and, again, if the purpose of that is to promote the cessation of hostilities and to promote, perhaps, finally some resolution to this civil war…then we welcome that.”
Putin has said he intends to keep both the Tartus naval base that Russia has maintained on the Syrian coast since the Soviet era and the Khmeimim air base further east, which began operations in September, operating “in a routine mode.”