Russia has begun pulling its forces out of Syria, the head of the armed forces said Friday.
Gen. Valery Gerasimov announced the withdrawal would begin with the departure of the naval group led by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, which arrived in the region in November.
“In accordance with the decision of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, the Russian Defense Ministry is beginning the reduction of the armed deployment to Syria,” he said, according to the Interfax news agency.
The announcement came a week after Turkey and Russia negotiated a cease-fire between forces loyal to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and opposition groups. Talks aimed at a political solution to the six-year conflict are due to start in Kazakhstan later this month.
Russian airstrikes since September 2015 have turned the war in Assad’s favor, culminating in the capture of Aleppo last month.
Col. Gen. Andrey Kartapolov, commander of Russian forces in Syria, said the carrier group had completed its mission, carrying out 420 sorties and destroying 1,252 targets over two months.
On Dec. 29, a day before cease-fire came into effect, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said it would create “the conditions we need to be able to reduce Russia’s military presence on Syrian territory.”