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Putin: Russia won't pull all troops from Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while answering a question during his annual call-in show (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW (AP) —President Vladimir Putin says Russia is currently not planning to withdraw all of its troops from Syria.

Russia launched its operation in Syria in 2015, tipping the war in favor of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Putin last December announced a scale-down of the Russian military presence there.

Speaking during his annual call-in show on Thursday, Putin said Russia "is not planning to withdraw all of its troops at this point" and that they will stay in Syria "as long as it benefits Russia."

Moscow has sent an undisclosed number of military advisers, pilots, technical staff and military police to Syria.

Putin stressed that Russia's air base at Hemeimeem and the naval base in Tartous, which he said are important for helping the Syrian government, do not host any permanent facilities, which means the Russian military can be withdrawn quickly if necessary.

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