Russia says it starts Syrian drawdown with aircraft carrier

This photo made from the footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official website on Wednesday shows the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier during its mission in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. (File, Russian Defense Ministry Press Service/ Photo via AP)
Updated 06 January 2017
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Russia says it starts Syrian drawdown with aircraft carrier

MOSCOW: Russia announced on Friday that it is withdrawing its aircraft carrier and some other Russian warships from the waters off Syria as the first step in a drawdown of its forces in the war-torn Mideast country.
According to Russian General Staff chief Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier and accompanying ships are to be the first to leave.
Gerasimov was quoted as saying by the state news agency Tass that “in accordance with the decision by the supreme commander-in-chief (President) Vladimir Putin, the Defense Ministry is starting to downsize the grouping of armed forces in Syria.”
Moscow has been a key supporter of President Bashar Assad’s government and forces in Syria’s devastating civil war.
Gerasimov did not give further details on the force reduction, which follows an order by Putin on Dec. 29.
Syrian forces’ retaking of the city of Aleppo last month and a subsequent Russia- and Turkey-brokered cease-fire, in place for nearly a week now, make Russian forces less critical to Assad, but it is unclear how extensive the drawdown might be.
Airstrikes from the Admiral Kuznetsov began in mid-November, the first time the carrier has been used in combat. It has lost two aircraft — an Su-33 fighter jet that crashed in the Mediterranean Sea in December as it returned to the carrier following a sortie over Syria. In November, a MiG-29 crashed into the sea while trying to land on the carrier.
Russia and Turkey, a strong supporter of Syria’s moderate opposition, brokered the current cease-fire, which came into effect on Dec. 30. The truce has mostly held but not altogether halted fighting in the country, and the government and opposition have blamed each other for violations of the truce.
The cease-fire is meant to pave the way for peace negotiations in Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital, later this month. The gathering could give new impetus for UN-mediated talks between Syria’s warring sides.


Son of Iranian-American detainee asks Tehran ‘to show mercy’

Baquer Namazi. (Twitter)
Updated 17 min 12 sec ago
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Son of Iranian-American detainee asks Tehran ‘to show mercy’

  • Baquer Namazi, 81, has been held in Iran for over two years

WASHINGTON: The family and attorney of an Iranian-American dual national held in Tehran say his health is rapidly deteriorating and are appealing to the Iranian authorities to allow him to leave for medical treatment.
Babak Namazi, the son of Baquer Namazi, is asking Iran “to show mercy to my father.”
Baquer Namazi, 81, has been held in Iran for over two years. He and his son Siamak Namazi were convicted of collaborating with a hostile power in 2016 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The elder Namazi has been diagnosed with narcolepsy in addition to battling a heart condition in prison.
Babak Namazi and the family’s attorney say they believe direct engagement between the US and Iran is “critically important” to secure the release of the elder Namazi.