At the air base, Vladimir Putin was met by President of the Syrian Arab Republic Bashar al-Assad, Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu and Commander of the Russian military group Sergei Surovikin.
The Commander-in-Chief ordered the withdrawal of the Russian military group from Syria back to their permanent bases.
Vladimir Putin thanked the Russian service personnel who took part in the counter-terrorism operation in Syria and who made the operation a success.
The Russian head of State and President of Syria Bashar al-Assad also met with Russian officers and heard a report by the Commander of the Russian group of forces in Syria on the operations to liberate the country from terrorists. Vladimir Putin used this opportunity to thank the Russian military pilots who will be returning home today.
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Speech at the Khmeimim air base
Russian President Vladimir Putin: Hello, comrades.
The most important thing for a military person – and we are very much aware of this – is the defence of our Fatherland, our people. This is not just the purpose of military service, but also the purpose of life for those who have devoted themselves to serving their people.
At the same time, a soldier is truly tested for loyalty to the Fatherland in a military operation fraught with huge risks to life and health. Here, in Syria, far from home, you are doing exactly that – you are protecting our country.
By helping the people of Syria to maintain their statehood, to fight off attacks by terrorists, you have inflicted a devastating blow to those who have directly, brazenly and openly threatened our country.
We will never forget the sacrifices and losses incurred in the struggle against terrorism both here in Syria and in Russia. However, it will not make us fold our hands and retreat. This is not in our peoples’ nature.
On the contrary, this memory will continue to motivate us to eradicate this absolute evil – terrorism – whatever face it hides behind.
Yes, the threat of terrorism around the world is still very high. However, the task of combating the armed groups here in Syria, the goal that needed to be addressed with the help of the large-scale use of the armed forces, has been largely resolved – and brilliantly resolved. Congratulations!
Our Armed Forces and our defence contractors have shown the growing power of the Russian Army and Navy, and the high combat capability of the various military units.
Pilots, sailors, members of special forces, reconnaissance, troop-control and logistic support units, military police, medical personnel, field engineers and advisers working in the battle units of the Syrian Army have displayed the best qualities of Russian soldiers, such as courage, heroism, combat cohesion, determination, as well as excellent training and professionalism.
The Homeland is proud of you. I am convinced that you will always faithfully serve the Fatherland, defend and uphold our national interests, our country and its people.
Syria has been preserved as a sovereign and independent state. Refugees are returning to their homes. Favourable conditions have been created for a political settlement under the UN. The Russian Centre for the reconciliation of opposing sides in Syria continues to operate in line with international agreements.
The two bases, in Tartous and Khmeimim, will continue to operate on a permanent basis. If the terrorists raise their heads again, we will deal unprecedented strikes unlike anything they have seen.
In just over two years, the Russian Armed Forces and the Syrian Army have defeated the most combat-ready group of international terrorists. In this connection, I have decided to redeploy most of the Russian military contingent from the Syrian Arab Republic to Russia.
You are returning victorious to your homes, your families, parents, wives, children and friends.
I hereby order the Defence Minister and the General Chief of Staff to start redeploying units of the Russian army group to their permanent bases.
The Homeland is waiting for you, friends. Godspeed! Thank you for your service.