by Raf Sanchez, Telegraph:
Vladimir Putin abruptly ordered the withdrawal of most Russian forces from Syria today in an unexpected and potentially significant moment in the five-year effort to end Syria’s civil war.
The Russian president made the shock announcement at a meeting of government minsters on Monday and said that his country’s forces should begin leaving Syria as early as Tuesday.
The decision caught the US and other Western countries off guard and came as negotiators from the Syrian regime and opposition forces gathered for the start of peace talks in Geneva.
However, analysts warned that Mr Putin’s announcement would mean little if it did not lead to an end to Russian airstrikes against the opponents of Bashar al-Assad and on civilian areas.
Russia began bombing late last year with that stated aim of destroying “terrorist” groups inside Syria but in reality it focused its fire on propping up Mr Assad’s embattled forces.
#Russian move could be positive – if part of real commitment to Syrian-led political transition & continuation of cessation of hostilities
— Philip Hammond (@PHammondMP) March 14, 2016
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