Russia scaling down forces in Syria, sending aircraft carrier home

By Andrew V. Pestano Follow @AVPLive9 Contact the Author   |  Jan. 6, 2017 at 7:07 AM
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MOSCOW, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Russia's Ministry of Defense on Friday said it began to withdraw some forces from Syria, including its Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, following a cease-fire in the conflict.

Admiral Kuznetsov and its naval group -- the warships of the Northern Fleet's aircraft carrier task force -- in the Mediterranean Sea will be the first to return to Russia.

President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial reduction in forces involved in the Syrian conflict less than a week after a cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey began. The United Nations said the truce largely seems to be holding.

The Admiral Kuznetsov is traveling to Severomorsk in Russia's northern Murmansk region, which is home to Russia's Northern Fleet.

"In accordance with the decision by Supreme Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Putin, Russia's Defense Ministry is starting to downsize the grouping of the armed forces in Syria," Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff of Russia's Armed Forces, said. "I would like to thank the staff of the aircraft carrier group for the success in implementing its tasks.

Russia, Turkey and Iran hope to hold peace talks between the Syrian regime and rebel forces to end the nearly six-year Syrian civil war later this month in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.

In March 2016, Putin also announced a withdrawal from Syria, with some warplanes leaving the area.

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