Russia Starts Drawing Down Forces in Syria

FILE – A photo taken from a Norwegian surveillance aircraft shows Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in international waters off the coast of northern Norway, Oct.17, 2016.

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Russia is beginning a draw-down of its military resources in Syria.

Military chief Valery Gerasimov said Friday, “In accordance with the decision of the supreme commander of the Russian armed forces Vladimir Putin, the Russian defense ministry is beginning the reduction of the armed deployment to Syria.”

Gerasimov said the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier and its accompanying ships will be the first to go.

Moscow has been a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s devastating civil war.

Russian forces were key in ousting rebels from Aleppo last month in the Syrian government’s biggest victory in more than five years of war.

Russia and Turkey, a strong supporter of Syria’s moderate opposition, brokered the current cease-fire, which came into effect December 30. The truce has mostly held but not altogether halted fighting in the country, and the government and opposition have blamed each other for violations of the truce.

The cease-fire is meant to pave the way for peace negotiations in Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital, later this month. The gathering could give new impetus for U.N.-mediated talks between Syria’s warring sides

Some material for this report came from the Associated Press.