Putin orders Russian military to begin withdrawal from Syria
PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian military to begin withdrawing the main part of its forces from Syria, according to reports.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says troops will begin pulling out of the war-torn country tomorrow.
He said Mr Putin had called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to inform him of his decision.
A spokesman for the Syrian president said the two leaders agreed to reduce the Russian air force presence.
He said Russia had pledged to continue support for Syria in "confronting terrorism".
Mr Putin signalled that Moscow would maintain a scaled back military presence in the country as he did not give a deadline for withdrawal and said some troops would stay on at the port of Tartous and at the Hmeymim airbase in Syria's Latakia province.
In a statement the Russian president said: "I believe that the task put before the defense ministry and Russian armed forces has, on the whole, been fulfilled.
"With the participation of the Russian military... the Syrian armed forces and patriotic Syrian forces have been able to achieve a fundamental turnaround in the fight against international terrorism and have taken the initiative in almost all respects."
He said the military had "created the conditions for the start of the peace process".
Russia entered the civil war in September last year and has been conducting airstrikes against Isis and rebel groups.
It was accused of attacking Mr Assad's enemies rather than focusing on eliminating the Isis threat like the other countries - including the US and UK - who are carrying out operations in the country.
It has also been accused of killing more civillians than the Syrian army or Isis fighters had by independent monitoring group The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR).
The comments come the day peace talks resume in Geneva aimed at resolving the brutal four-year conflict which has killed approximately 250,000 people and displace millions more.