In a move which defied speculation, Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered the main part of his military to withdraw from Syria. The move was reportedly agreed to by the office of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad. The announcements came after weeks of uneasy truce between contesting parties in the region.
The reasons for Russian withdrawal are unclear, some theorize it may be economical. The war in Syria is costing the country $3 million (US) a day, a price which is becoming more and more expensive amid the oil crisis. Additionally, Russia has faced numerous sanctions in response to its activities in the region.
In a statement Mr. Putin has said that his forces have accomplished the mission they set out to do. Since Russia became involved in September Al-Assad’s regime has managed to climb back from the brink of collapse, reclaiming nearly 10,000 sq km and 400 settlements.
The original mission for Russian forces was to combat the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations in the region. Quickly, however, Russian airstrikes began hitting positions occupied by government opposition groups. The withdrawal announced on Monday has been seen as an admission that the true nature of Mr. Putin’s mission was the prop up Mr. Assad’s regime.
Government Opposition groups saw the announcement as a plus for the peace talks underway in Geneva. Most involved parties, including the US, are waiting to see to what extent the Russians follow through with the announcement. However, some believe that the Russians will no longer hold the Syrian Government to the truce and that the conflict will resume in full force.