Russian Tu-22M3 bombers return to home bases after mission in Syria

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He made the announcement at the Hmeymim Airbase, where Russian forces are headquartered and where he met with Syrian President Bashaar Al Assad.

President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to withdraw from Syria during a surprise visit to a Russian airbase in the country on Monday morning, where he was greeted by Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Putin told an audience of military personnel.

The president has underlined that with the help of Russia's military operation, Syria has been preserved as an independent and sovereign state, adding that conditions for the political settlement in the country under the auspices of the United Nations have been created and the refugees, that had to flee their homes, may return.

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Mr Putin told reporters the combined Syrian and Russian armies have destroyed "one of the most capable groups of global terrorists" in just two years. "Homeland awaits you, my friends".

And he added that if the "terrorists raise their heads" in Syria again, Russian Federation will hit them hard with powerful strikes - saying: "We will never forget about the deaths and losses sustained in the anti-terror fight both here in Syria and in Russian Federation". "We will never forget the casualties and losses that we suffered in the fight with terrorism here in Syria as well as at home in Russian Federation". This is not our national characteristic.

"This is what military service is about, this is the main priority of those who dedicate their lives to serving their people,"Soldiers who serve their country pass the most important test at the battlefield, risking their health and life". The theme of our meeting, the destruction of Daesh fighters, is very important for the whole world.

Moscow's casualties have been mounting in Syria as its presence grew from advisers and military contractors to include special forces and an air campaign this autumn, although the exact number of deaths remains secret.