'Russia is pulling army personnel from Syria' 317844

Moscow pulls out all military staff from embattled Syria, strategic Mediterranean port, AFP cites Russian daily as saying.

June 26, 2013 19:45
1 minute read.
Russian naval landing ships [file photo]

Russian naval landing ships 370 (R). (photo credit: Reuters)


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Russia has pulled out all its army personnel from Syria due to the rising security threat in the embattled country, AFP cited Russian daily Vedomosti as saying Wednesday.

The reported withdrawal also included military staff from the Mediterranean naval port in Tartus.

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Russia is a longtime ally and arms supplier to Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose forces have been fighting rebels trying to overthrow him in a civil war.

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A source from the Russian defense ministry was cited in Vedomosti as saying the decision to remove all Russian defense ministry, military and civilian personnel was made to reduce the risk of physical and political danger that could emanate from the fighting in Syria, AFP reported.

According to the unnamed Russian source, the death of Russians caused by forces from any side of the Syrian conflict could strain political ties with Moscow, a Soviet-era ally of Syria.

Israel has closely tracked Russian naval movements in the Mediterranean Sea amid reports that several ships are heading to Syria to secure the Tartus Port and possibly military assets Moscow maintains in the country.

According to a report published earlier in the year by the Washington- based Institute for the Study of War, the Tartus Port is being used as a “as a political lever, both to affect the outcome of the Syrian civil war and to maintain legitimate access to a strategically located facility nested in the Arab world.”

More than 100,000 people have been killed since the start of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, now the longest and most violent of the recent Arab uprisings, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday.

Reuters and Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.

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