Russia is beginning to draw down its military forces in Syria by removing an aircraft carrier and other warships, the Kremlin announced on Friday.
The Russian defense ministry, at the direction of President Vladimir Putin, said that it is starting the reduction of armed forces in the war-torn Middle Eastern country after a successful mission in Syria and the quick liberation of Aleppo "from terrorist formations," according to a ministry news release.
The announcement came one week after Russia and Turkey brokered a ceasefire in Syria, after Syrian President Bashar al Assad's forces took hold of Aleppo from rebel control with much help from Russia.
The warships belonging to the aircraft carrier group of the Northern Fleet will leave Syria first.
"We are thankful to the staff of the carrier group for the successful accomplishment of the assigned missions," said Russian General Staff chief Gen. Valery Gerasimov.
Russia first intervened militarily in Syria in September 2015, under the pretext of helping the Assad regime fight the Islamic State. In many cases, Russian warplanes bombing targets in Syria instead targeted rebels fighting the regime, tipping the years-long Syrian civil war in Assad's favor.
Diplomatic efforts by the United States to work with Russia on the implementation of a ceasefire failed repeatedly.
"Since November 8, 2016, the aircraft carrier group of the Northern Fleet consisting of the heavy aircraft carrying cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov, the heavy nuclear missile cruiser Pyotr Velikiy, the large ASW ship Severomorsk, as well as auxiliary vessels of the Black Sea Fleet, has been fulfilling counterterrorist missions on the territory of Syria," Colonel-General Andrei Kartapolov, commander of Russian forces in Syria, said on Friday when announcing the draw down of forces.
Gen. Ali Ayoub, the Syrian army's chief of staff, thanked all Russian service members for "the assistance and help to the Syrian Arab Republic in the fight against the international terrorism."