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Russian tactical air group subject to withdrawal from Syria back in Russia — General Staff

Russian aerospace force continues to deliver strikes at terrorist targets to back operations of ground forces of the Syrian government army and self-defense groups

MINSK, March 28. /TASS/. The entire tactical air group Russia planned to withdraw from Syria is already back in Russia, Russian Chief-of-Staff Valery Gerasimov told journalists on Monday.

"In line with the decision of Russia’s Supreme Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Putin, the major part of Russian group is being withdrawn from Syria. As of today, all tactical aviation warplanes Russia planned to putt out have returned to Russia. Withdrawal of army aviation and support units continues," he said.

According to Gerasimov, Russian aerospace force continues to deliver strikes at terrorist targets to back operations of ground forces of the Syrian government army and self-defense groups.

Freeing Palmyra from terrorists is strategically important for the fight against terrorism in Syria, Russian General Staff Chief told reporters.

"Palmyra - the most important cultural center - was freed from terrorists yesterday with support from Russian Aerospace Defense Forces and special operations forces, with participation of our military advisers. Freeing this city is strategically important in the fight against terrorism in Syria," Gerasimov said.

Russian military operation in Syria "allowed to radically change the situation with growing international terrorist tumor," he added. "Terrorist bases were destroyed, weapons and ammunition depots were destroyed, supplies of contraband oil from which terrorists received financial support, were blocked," Gerasimov reminded.

He noted that Syrian government troops, self-defense forces and opposition "launched active offensive actions against ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - former name of Islamic State terrorist organization) gangs." "The agreement was made, and the process of reconciliation has started," Gerasimov concluded.

The Russian Defense Ministry will soon dispatch to Syria experts of the International Mine Action Center and robots for demining the city of Palmira that has been reconquered by the Syrian government troops from the Islamic State militants, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Army Valery Gerasimov told journalists on Monday.

He said that in accordance with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision, the Russian military will be engaged in mine clearing operations in Palmira. This mission will be fulfilled, in particular, "by units of the International Mine Action Center," General Gerasimov said.

"Literally this week, in the coming days, the necessary special robotic mine clearing equipment will be dispatched there," he said.

Russia’s General Staff invites other countries to join Russia in demining works in Palmyra, Gerasimov said.

"We invite other countries to join these efforts," he said after a meeting of the chiefs-of-staff from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries.

Russia began to deliver pinpoint air strikes against terrorist targets in Syria on September 30, 2015 at the request from Syria’s President Bashar Assad. Withdrawal of the major part of Russia’s air group from Syria began on March 15. The Russian defense ministry says however that Russian warplanes will continue air strikes against terrorist targets.

A ceasefire regime brokered by Russia and the United States on February 22 officially came into effect in Syria at midnight Damascus time on February 27. This does not cover terrorist groups such as Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, both outlawed in Russia, and other groups recognized as terrorist by the United Nations Security Council.