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Putin: Russia Could Boost Syrian Military Presence Again, if Needed

by Ken Bredemeier March 17, 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin says even with his troop withdrawal from the Syrian warfront he could if necessary, within 'several hours,' ramp up Moscow's military presence there again.

As he decorated officers who served in war-wracked Syria, Putin said he does not want to escalate the conflict again and expressed hope for 'the common sense' of Syrian authorities and opposition groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad to reach a peace accord.

The commander of the Russian air force said the withdrawal of most of its troops in Syria would be completed within two or three days. The United States has estimated that Russia had 3,000 to 6,000 troops in Syria, with Russia saying about 1,000 would remain after the drawdown.

Moscow to keep bases in Syria

At the awards ceremony, Putin emphasized that Moscow would keep its air base and naval facility in Syria and continue its aerial bombardment of Islamic State targets; al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate, al-Nusra Front, and other groups the United Nations considers to be extremists.

The Russian leader said at the Kremlin, 'If there is a need, Russia literally within several hours can ramp up its presence in the region to the size required for the unfolding situation and use the whole arsenal of possibilities we have at our disposal.'

The U.N. is conducting Syrian peace talks in Geneva in hopes of ending the five-year civil war that has left 300,000 or more people dead. Violence in Syria has been sharply reduced during a three-week-old 'cessation of hostilities' calling for an end to fighting except for continued attacks on Islamic State, al-Nusra Front and other extremist groups.

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