UPDATED (1 &2) – watch live coverage – RT – BREAKING: Putin orders start of Russian military withdrawal from Syria, says ‘objectives achieved’

UPDATED 1: Putin announces start of Syria withdrawal: RT special coverage LIVE

UPDATE 2: Russia to start withdrawal from Syria LIVE UPDATES . . . IN WRITTEN FORM

What will the West/NATO do with this? (Tomorrow is the Ides of March – REMEMBER 😉 Let’s watch and see. ~J

Published time: 14 Mar, 2016 17:42 Edited time: 14 Mar, 2016 18:58

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu © kremlin.ru

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu to start the withdrawal of forces from Syria starting Tuesday. Russia will however keep a military presence at the port of Tartus and at the Khmeimim airbase to observe ceasefire agreements.

“I consider the objectives that have been set for the Defense Ministry to be generally accomplished. That is why I order to start withdrawal of the main part of our military group from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic starting from tomorrow,” Putin said on Monday during a meeting with Shoigu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

To control the observation of ceasefire agreements in the region, Moscow will keep its Khmeimim airbase in Latakia province and a base at the port of Tartus, Putin said.

At Moscow’s initiative, a phone conversation between Vladimir Putin and Syria’s President Bashar Assad was held on Monday evening, the Kremlin reported.

The two leaders agreed that the actions of Russia’s Air Force in Syria have allowed them to “profoundly reverse the situation” in connection to fighting terrorists in the region, having “disorganized militants’ infrastructure and inflicted fundamental damage upon them.”

Bashar Assad has recognized the “professionalism, courage and heroism” of Russian Army soldiers and officers, who have taken part in the military action, thanking Russia not only for extensive help in the fight against terrorism, but also for providing humanitarian aid and assistance to the Syrian civilian population.

READ MORE: Russia, US truce initiative in Syria ‘may be last chance to stop violence’ – opposition 

The Syrian leader also stressed its readiness to engage in the political process in Syria as soon as possible, the Kremlin said.

Russia’s president also addressed his foreign minister. He had tasked Lavrov with intensifying Russia’s participation in the peace process to solve the Syrian crisis, the Kremlin reported.

The decision to withdraw the forces has been made by the Russian leader “based on the evaluation of results” of the defense ministry’s performance, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. The president has not yet discussed the decision with western leaders, he added, but said that Moscow will maintain its coordination of actions in the region with the United States.

READ MORE: Putin: Syrian truce is real chance to end bloodshed [FULL STATEMENT]

Moscow launched its anti-terror campaign in Syria on September 30 last year. Russia’s participation in the operation, according to a previous statement by Putin, has its basis in international law and has been conducted “in accordance with an official request from the president of the Syrian Arab Republic [Bashar Assad].”

The Russian Air Force has been carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and other terrorist targets in the region, eliminating military equipment, communication centers, vehicles, arms and fuel depots.

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