Putin Visits Syria Airbase, Orders Start of Pullout

Russian President Vladimir Putin made an unannounced visit to Syria on Monday and ordered the return of a portion of Russian troops to their native country. Putin declared in March 2016 that he would begin to pull out the majority of Russian troops, this announcement signals the start of that partial withdrawal. Syrian President Bashar Assad greeted Putin at the Hmeimim air base, according to the Interfax news agency reports. “I order the defense minister and the chief of general staff to start withdrawing the Russian group of troops to their permanent bases,” Putin said, per the RIA Novosti news agency. “I have taken a decision: a significant part of the Russian troop contingent located in Syria is returning home to Russia.”