Middle East/North Africa

Russia pulls all military personnel out of Syria

Russia has withdrawn all its military personnel from Syria amid escalating violence, Russian media report, avoiding any chance of Russian troops being killed by U.S.-supplied weapons.

A Defense ministry source told the business daily Vedomosti that the decision was made in part to avoid the political fallout if any Russians were to be killed by either side in the conflict. Russia has also reportedly left unstaffed its naval base at Tartus, its fleet’s only facility outside the former Soviet Union.

{mosads}The withdrawal, however, reportedly does not cover technical experts hired by Syria to train President Bashar Assad’s forces to use Russian weapons such as surface-to-air missiles and attack helicopters. A report last year by Sweden’s Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) concluded that Russia had supplied Syria with 78 percent of its heavy armaments over the preceding five years. 

{mosads}The report builds on comments by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov to Arabic-language media late last week.

“Today, the Russian defence ministry does not have a single person in Syria,” Bogdanov told London’s Al-Hayat. “In Tartus, we never had a base in the first place. It is a technical facility for maintaining ships sailing in the Mediterranean.”

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