Syria – After a heated civil war in Syria having lasted about six years, Putin has decided to call for the retraction of Russia’s military from the conflict. Russia has been a major player in the region, supporting Bashar al-Assad’s government, whom the conflict originated as opposition against. On Tuesday, Putin said, “I order the defence minister and the chief of the general staff to start withdrawing the Russian group of troops to their permanent bases.” He added, “I have taken a decision: a significant part of the Russian troop contingent located in Syria is returning home to Russia.”
Russia’s Minister of Defence, Sergei Shoigu, has greatly exaggerated the amount of territory the Russian military has been able to free hitherto, claiming it to have been 503,223 sq km. The total area of the Syrian country, however, is two-and-a-half times less (185,000 sq km). Additionally, the Russian military has been accused of targeting, besides terrorists, “mainstream rebels” (Western-backed) and civilians. For instance, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (UK-based), accused them of causing 69 deaths over 72 hours in September, and 6,328 civilians in total. They have also been accused of targeting civilian infrastructure and the rebel-held Idlib Province, far from the nearest IS stronghold.
Putin said, however, that Russia would carry out more strikes in the region if “terrorists raise their heads again.” Since he is running for his fourth term in Russia, this move is likely not coincidental. Feeling like your leader has participated in “ending” a great war would surely encourage Russians to re-elect him, and there’s little doubt he will win again.