Russia will continue to strike Syria despite withdrawal


Russia will continue air strikes in Syria despite the withdrawal of most of its forces, a senior official has said.

Deputy Defence Minister Nikolay Pankov said it was too early to speak of defeating terrorism, after a campaign that has bolstered Syria’s government.

Russian forces started leaving Syria on Tuesday after Monday’s surprise announcement by President Vladimir Putin. Some have now landed in Russia.

A second day of peace talks is being held aimed at resolving the conflict.

UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, who is mediating in the talks, welcomed the Russian decision.

“The announcement by President Putin on the very day of the beginning of this round of Intra-Syrian Talks in Geneva is a significant development, which we hope will have a positive impact on the progress of the negotiations,” he said.

As the pullout got under way, Russian air strikes were reported against so-called Islamic State (IS) militants near the IS-held city of Palmyra.

Lebanon’s al-Manar TV and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian forces, supported by Russian air cover, had advanced towards the city.

IS captured Palmyra last May, deliberately destroying parts of the Unesco World Heritage site in scenes which caused outrage around the world.

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