First group of Russian SU-34 jets return from Syria

First group of Russian SU-34 jets land in Russia after leaving Hmeymim Air Base in Syria’s Latakia province

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Russian military jets take off from the country's air base in Hmeymin, Syria to head back to Russia, part of a partial withdrawal ordered by President Vladimir Putin, in this still image taken from video March 15, 2016.

The first group of Russian SU-34 jets have arrived at an air base in southern Russia after taking off from Russia’s Hmeymim air base in Syria’s Latakia province, Russian TV footage showed on Tuesday.

Russia's Defence Ministry stated each group will be moved by eTupolev-154 passenger planes or an Ilyushin-76 transport aircraft, carrying engineers, technical personnel and cargo.

The act came after Russian President, Vladimir Putin ordered his military to start the withdrawal of the "main part" of Russia's forces from Syria on Monday, saying that the Russian military intervention had largely achieved its objectives.

He also stated that Russia strengthened its role in the Syria peace process to end the war in Syria.

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

US President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Putin discussed Russia's 'partial withdrawal' from Syria on Monday.

"They discussed President Putin's announcement today of a partial withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria and next steps required to fully implement the cessation of hostilities," the White House said in a statement.

The European Union indicated withdrawing Russian troops from Syria were very important to reduce violence and the ongoing peace talks.

Catherine Ray, a spokeswoman for the EU's foreign service, stated, "Any steps that help achieve de-escalation of violence inside Syria and the prolongation of the cessation of hostilities is very important for the overall peace process."

Syrian main opposition also welcomed Putin’s decision, saying a serious Russia’s pullback would exert pressure on the Syrian regime and give the talks a positive trigger.

The High Negotiations Committee (HNC) announced the latest Russian President Vladimir Putin's move could end the five years old war in Syria.

Salim al-Muslat, a spokesman for the HNC, remarked that the withdrawal of troops could make easier an end to Assad regime's "dictatorship and his crimes".

Russia to keep modern S-400 air defence system

Sergei Ivanov, the Kremlin's chief-of-staff, said Russia would continue to keep its advanced air defence system in Syria, said the RIA news agency.

"In order to efficiently ensure security, including from the air, the most advanced air defence systems are needed," he stated.

With the anti-aircraft system that is an effective range of up to 400 kilometres (248.55 miles),  Russian military can control large part of the skies upon Syria.

Meanwhile,  the RIA news quoted Russian Deputy Defence Minister Nikolai Pankov as saying the Russian air force would continue carrying out attacks against DAESH terrorist organisation and other terror groups in Syria despite a partial withdrawal.

1733 civilians killed during Russian air attacks

Syrian regime forces have been supported by Russian air strikes since September 2015, when the regime leader Bashar al Assad asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for help in his offensive against DAESH.

However, Russian officials later admitted bombing non-DAESH, opposition-held areas where civilians live, after it was blamed by the US for using DAESH as an excuse to preserve the Syrian regime.

Thousands of air strikes and missiles by Russia killed at least 1,733 civilians in Syria since September 30, London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) documented in its latest report.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced 11 million Syrians. 

The Syrian Network for Human Rights has reported that more than 180,000 civilians have died from the start of the war till January 31 this year.

About 5 million others took refuge in the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, with Turkey hosting the largest number with almost 2.8 million.

TRTWorld and agencies