MOSCOW, December 28. /TASS/. Russia’s Armed Forces bases in Syria play an important factor in safeguarding national interests, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a ceremony to award state medals to the servicemen who distinguished themselves during the operation.
"Two Russian bases - at the Hmeymim airfield and the Tartus port – will remain on Syrian soil and will operate on a permanent basis. This is a vital element in protecting our national interests and ensuring Russia’s security in one of key strategic directions," the Supreme Commander-in-Chief said.
The head of state noted that the Russian military had fulfilled all of its mission’s objectives assigned to them in Syria and their units had returned to places of permanent deployment in the Russian Federation.
Putin stated that the Russian army and Navy in Syria fully demonstrated their increased capabilities, in addition to successfully using the latest weapons and equipment.
According to him, the pilots of the Russian Air Force made 34,000 combat flights, and the targets of militants were attacked 166 times with precision-guided missiles.
"The Syrian army, with the key support of our Air Space forces and the Navy, freed almost the entire territory of the country from terrorists, over a thousand of settlements. Your heroism and professional actions helped preserve Syrian statehood, put an end to massacres, executions, terror against civilians, made it possible to embark on a political settlement to the conflict in that country, restoring daily life back to normal and the return of tens of thousands of refugees," the president said in his address to the Russian military.
Putin is confident that the citizens of Syria will remember with gratitude the courage of Russian servicemen, who "sometimes under fire delivered food, medicine, and necessities", as well as the peacekeeping efforts of Russian officers working in the center for reconciliation of the conflicting parties.
The Russian servicemen who took part in the anti-terror operation in Syria fulfilled their duties splendidly, Putin noted.
"You wrote your own glowing and victorious page. Today we are praising you as the true warriors of Russia," Putin said. "You fulfilled challenging tasks on Syrian soil appropriately and impeccably, and came home to your relatives and close ones with victory."
The Supreme Commander-in-Chief thanked the servicemen and their colleagues for their professionalism, dedication, and faith in their military duty. Putin also thanked servicewomen who did their job in Syria on par with men.
"Over two years and a half more than 48,000 our officers and soldiers took part in the Syria operation," the president said. Among them were pilots and sailors, servicemen from special units and military police, sappers, intelligence officers and communications personnel, and officers from the command and military advisers.
"You fought for Russia’s interests and Russia, for your own home, for a fair and just cause. I’m sure you felt this civic patriotic cohesion, this unity of the army and the people gave you strength," Putin stressed.
Russia made a crucial contribution to defeating terrorists in Syria, according to Putin.
"Russia, as it often happened in history, made a major and decisive contribution to the defeat of the criminal force that challenged all of civilization, and to the destruction of the terrorist army of the barbaric dictatorship that sowed death and destruction, wiped out hospitals, schools, mosques, churches, monuments to history and culture, and sought to turn Syria and adjacent states into a foothold for further aggression that had the goal of targeting our country," Putin said.
According to Putin, the terrorists in Syria, who took on new recruits into their ranks, and got access to funding, oil resources, and state-of-the-art weapons, would have continued their global offensive with renewed and increased force, if they had been able to.
"They got the punishment they deserved for their atrocities, and their equipment, personnel and infrastructure, along with thousands of militants have been eliminated," the president stressed.
More than 60,000 militants were killed during the operation in Syria.
According to Putin, the Russian Armed Forces have changed radically during the course of its operation in Syria, and the entire world saw that.
"You understand, you know, you feel that the army has changed radically over the past two plus years. It changed because people felt they could make the grade, and that’s the most important thing, because they understood how our military equipment works, how our management, logistics support agencies can work, how modern our Armed Forces have become. The whole world saw that," the Russian leader said.
He stressed though it is particularly important to make sure that the Russian people feel the Russian army’s might as well. "It is important to make sure that people feel that they are protected, protected reliably, and that this protection is guaranteed," the head of state added. "You deserve credit for that."
Putin especially thanked representatives of the defense industry, who fulfilled their duties shoulder to shoulder with military personnel, by bringing the latest weapons to the operational and combat state, "turning these latest weapons into a formidable force." "As I said, we will continue to modernize our Armed Forces, the Navy and the army. I do count on you and people like you very much," the Russian leader concluded. He also expressed his gratitude to the military servicemen’s relatives and friends and wished everyone a Happy New Year.