Russia forces begin withdrawal from Syria after Putin’s order

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Russian forces are preparing to start leaving Syria after Monday’s surprise withdrawal announcement by President Vladimir Putin.

Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu gave the order to withdraw and aircraft are being loaded up for long-range flights back to Russia, the BBC reports.

The Russian force reduction was announced during a meeting between Mr Putin and his defence and foreign ministers.

Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and his office sought to reject speculation there was a rift between the two countries, saying the move was mutually agreed.

The Russian air campaign started last September, tipping the balance in favour of the Syrian government and allowing it to recapture territory from rebels.

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