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Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Monday that Russia will pull its forces from Syria after he arrived in Latakia, Syria's main port city, on an unexpected visit.
The Russian president said that despite the decision to withdraw "a significant portion of the Russian contingent," if "terrorists raise their heads" in Syria Russia will hit them with powerful strikes.
Putin also noted that Russia was going to retain its air base and naval facility in Syria.
Putin told Syrian President Bashar Assad he hopes the work of the Syrian congress can be launched, and that he will also discuss the issue with the presidents of Egypt and Turkey.
Putin met with Assad in the Syrian president's Alawite heartland, before taking off for Egypt, Russian media said. According to Tass news agency, Putin met with Assad in the Khmeimim air base in Latakia, not far from the Syrian border with Israel and Lebanon, before heading off to Egypt, where he landed Monday afternoon.
In Egypt, Putin is going to hold talks with in Cairo with counterpart Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi. The latter has visited Russia three times since the ouster of his Islamist predecessor Mohammed Morsi in 2013. After taking office, Sissi has bought billions of dollars' worth of Russian weapons, including fighter jets and assault helicopters.
The two countries are also in the late stages of negotiations over the construction by a Russian company of Egypt's first nuclear energy reactor.
Russia’s military said last Thursday it had accomplished its mission of defeating Islamic State in Syria, and there were no remaining settlements there under the group’s control.
Russia has been supporting the Assad regime in Syria since the Syrian civil war first erupted in 2011, providing political and military aid over the past six years.
In 2015, Moscow began its direct military involvement in Damascus.