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President Vladimir Putin orders Russian troop withdrawal from Syria

Vladimir Putin

Damacus, Dec 11 (UITV/IANS) - Visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, the Kremlin said.

Putin arrived at the Hmeymim airfield in the coastal city of Latakia earlier in the day on a surprise visit where he met his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad, reports Xinhua news agency.

"I order the Defence Minister (Sergey Shoygu) and the Chief of General Staff to start withdrawing the Russian group of troops to their permanent bases," the BBC quoted Putin as saying.

Putin had already declared in March 2016 that he was planning to pull out the majority of Russian troops.

"I have taken a decision: a significant part of the Russian troop contingent located in Syria is returning home to Russia."

Putin said that if "terrorists raise their heads again", Russia would "carry out such strikes on them which they have never seen".

"We will never forget the victims and losses suffered in the fight against terror both here in Syria and also in Russia."

The visit marks Putin's first trip since the Syrian conflict began six years ago.