(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
MOSCOW - Russia will keep a naval and an air base in Syria capable of carrying out strikes against insurgents if required after a partial military pull-out announced by President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.
Putin on Monday ordered "a significant part" of Moscow's military contingent to start pulling out of Syria, declaring their work largely done.
Putin made the announcement during a surprise visit to the Russian Hmeymim air base, where he met President Bashar Assad and addressed Russian forces.
"Thanks to the fact that the operation to save Syria and the liberation of Syrian land from terrorists have been completed, there is no longer a need for broad-scale combat strength," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
But he added that Russia would keep the Hmeymim air base in Syria's Latakia Province and its naval facility in the port of Tartous.
"The President stressed that the terrorists might try to 'walk tall' again in Syria. If that happens, crushing blows will be carried out," Peskov said.
Russia's military operation in Syria, which began in September 2015, turned the tide of the conflict in favor of Moscow's ally, Assad. It also established Russia as a power broker in the Middle East, regaining a role it had relinquished after the collapse of the Soviet Union.