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Russian warplanes supported Syrian forces in operation to free Palmyra — General Staff

March 18, 2016, 16:54 UTC+3 MOSCOW

According to the chief of the main operations department of the Russian General Staff, conditions have been created for encircling and routing the IS armed units in Palmyra

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© Vadim Grishankin/Russian Defence Ministry Press and Information Office/TASS

MOSCOW, March 18. /TASS/. Russia’s Aerospace Forces continue delivering airstrikes at terrorist targets in Syria, and Russian jets make 20-25 sorties daily to support the operation to free Palmyra, Lieutenant General Sergey Rudskoy, chief of the main operations department of the Russian General Staff, said on Friday.

"A large-scale operation to free the city of Palmyra has been carried out recently by government forces and patriotic forces with support from Russia’s Aerospace Forces. On average, Russian jets make 20-25 sorties daily," Rudskoy told reporters.

"Conditions have been created for encircling and routing the armed units of ISIS [former name of the Islamic State terrorist group outlawed in Russia - TASS] in Palmyra," Rudskoy said.

According to him, the Syrian military have established control over the dominant hills and major traffic areas, shut off the routes to deliver ammunition and materiel to gunmen.

"I want to stress that the Russian Aerospace Force will continue delivering strikes against the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations in Syria," he said.

Part of equipment from Syria to be transported by sea

The official however noted that preparations for return of aviation and support units from Syria to Russia proceed according to plan

"Preparations are currently underway for relocation of army aviation and support units that will be carried out in accordance with the schedule," Rudskoy said.

He noted that main part of aviation task force is being withdrawn in strict accordance with the plan. "The group of Su-24M, Su-25 and Su-34 jets, as Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces Col. Gen. (Viktor) Bondarev already noted, already returned to aerodromes of permanent deployment on the territory of Russia," Rudskoy said.

According to the official, ship transport will be used to return equipment and cargoes of the Russian aviation task force from Syria.

"Part of equipment and cargoes will be transported by planes of Military Transport Aviation, another part - by ship transport," Rudskoy said.

The Kremlin press service released a statement on March 14 that the Russian and Syrian presidents, Vladimir Putin and Bashar Assad, agreed to start withdrawing the main part of the Russian aviation task force from Syria because the Russian Aerospace Forces had fulfilled the fundamental tasks which had been assigned to them. Russia’s Aerospace Forces started delivering strikes in Syria at facilities of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups (both banned in Russia) on September 30, 2015.

Russia will leave an air flight control center in the Syrian territory that will monitor the observation of the Syrian ceasefire, the Kremlin said. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu ordered starting the Russian troops’ withdrawal as of March 15. Earlier today Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov said that Russian forces will continue delivering airstrikes as terrorists in Syria.

247 ceasefire violations since February

Russia’s center for reconciliation of the warring parties in Syria has registered 247 episodes of ceasefire violations in a period since February 27, of which five were registered in the past day.

"In all, 247 episodes of ceasefire violation have been registered since February 27, including five - in the past five days," Rudskoy said.

He said that the number of such cases has been decreasing in the past days. "Whereas the Russian center reported dozens of episodes of ceasefire violations on the first day of reconciliation, in the past day there were only five such cases," the official said.

"Measures to promote dialogue between the parties to the intra-Syrian conflict taken by the Russian Armed Forces contribute to the ceasefire regime," Rudskoy said.

According to him, currently "more and more Syrian opposition units are joining the truce, which inspires confidence that this process will become irreversible."

A ceasefire process has been under way in Syria. "Forty-three documents, in which the commanders of ‘moderate opposition’ armed units gave their consent to cease the hostilities, have been signed. They include Halafi Turki al-Hassan, the commander of the Tribes army operating in Et Tell el-Abyad province," Rudskoi stressed.

"Russia-mediated agreements have been reached with administration chiefs in 51 populated localities: 37 - in Hama province; 6 - in Homs; 4 - in Damascus and Daraa provinces, respectively. Their number is constantly on the rise," Rudskoy added.

"The introduction of the ceasefire regime has considerably stabilized the situation in the country; the population in various parts of Syria managed to return to peaceful life as the warring parties had reciprocally reduced the intensity of shelling," the general stressed.

The Russian center for reconciliation of the warring parties, which operates round-the-clock at the Hmeymim air base, contributes to the ongoing reconciliation process. It has established constructive interaction with representatives the US coordination center in Jordan and a ceasefire center set up by the International Syria Support Group based in Geneva.

"They exchange information at least twice a day," Rudskoy clarified.

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