MOSCOW: Russia has withdrawn all its military personnel from Syria and left its strategic Tartus naval centre unstaffed because of the escalating security threat in the war-torn country, the Vedomosti daily said Wednesday.
The respected business daily cited an unnamed source in the Russian defence ministry as saying that no Russian defence ministry military or civilian personnel were now present in Syria, a Soviet-era ally of Moscow.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov had appeared to confirm the evacuation of military staff in an interview with the London-published Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat published on Friday.
“Today, the Russian defence ministry does not have a single person in Syria,” he said.
The facility in the Mediterranean port of Tartus, located in the Alawite Muslim heartland region of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, is Russia’s only such asset outside the former Soviet Union.
Created as the result of an agreement between Damascus and Moscow in 1971, the Tartus facility was believed in recent months to have been staffed by just a few dozen Russian defence ministry personnel.
Russia always insisted on calling it not a base but a “point of military-technical supply of the Russian Navy”. But analysts have always seen its sheer existence as a huge asset for Moscow.
The Vedomosti report said the decision to remove defence ministry personnel did not cover technical experts who are hired by the Syrian government to help train its army use Russian-issued weapons.
…Syria represents Russia’s last strategic ally in the Middle East and the fall of Assad would deal a significant blow to Moscow’s geopolitical aspirations.
Russia now intends to keep between three and five warships permanently stationed in the region as a show of its strategic interest in the Middle East, the Vedomosti report said.
Full article: Russia removes military personnel from Syria (Channel News Asia)