Putin, on visit, orders Russian forces to start pulling out of Syria: agencies

In this Monday, Dec. 11, 2017 frame grab made available by Russian Rossiya 24 TV Channel Sergei Surovikin, Russian Commander in Syria, left, goes to report to President Vladimir Putin, center, at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria. Declaring a victory in Syria, Putin on Monday visited a Russian military air base in the country and announced a partial pullout of Russian forces from the Mideast nation. Syrian President Bashar Assad is seen center left. (Rossiya 24 TV Channel photo via AP)
Updated 12 December 2017
0

Putin, on visit, orders Russian forces to start pulling out of Syria: agencies

MOSCOW: Declaring a victory in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday visited a Russian military air base in the country and announced a partial pullout of Russian forces from the Mideast nation.
Putin’s visit marks his first trip to Syria, drawing a symbolic line under the campaign that has shored up President Bashar Assad’s government. It is also the first visit by a foreign head of state to war-ravaged Syria since its bloodletting started nearly seven years ago.
Putin’s brief stop at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia while on route to Egypt comes days after the Russian president declared his bid to run for re-election in the March 18 vote, helping encourage the feelings of pride about Russia’s revived global clout and prestige.
It also follows the Russian announcement last week that the Syrian army under the Russian air cover routed the Islamic State in eastern Syria and fully restored control over the border with Iraq.
In a televised speech to the Russian troops at the base, the Russian leader hailed their valor.
“You have shown the best qualities of a Russian soldier,” Putin said.
The Hemeimeem base, in the heartland of Assad’s Alawite minority, has served as the main foothold for the Russian military campaign in Syria.
In a speech to the troops, Putin said that he had ordered the military to withdraw a “significant part” of the Russian contingent in Syria.
“Friends, the Motherland is waiting for you,” Putin said. He added that “if the terrorists again raise their heads, we will deal such blows to them they have never seen.”
Russian television stations showed Putin walking off the plane, embracing and shaking hands with Assad at the air base.
Putin said that the Russian military will maintain their presence at the Hemeimeem air base and the naval facility in Tartus.
Syrian TV said Assad thanked Putin for his troops’ effective contribution to the fight against terrorism in Syria.
Russia launched its air campaign in Syria at the end of September 2015 when Assad’s government was teetering on the brink of collapse and quickly changed the course of the conflict in its favor.


Turkey remains world’s worst offender against press freedom

Updated 21 min 8 sec ago
0

Turkey remains world’s worst offender against press freedom

  • A report by the Committee to Protect Journalists said that a near-record number of journalists around the world are behind bars for their work
  • The CPJ said there are dozens of reporters missing or kidnapped in the Middle East and North Africa

Turkey remains the world’s worst offender against press freedom, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Thursday, with at least 68 journalists imprisoned for anti-state charges.

Turkey has previously said its crackdown is justified because of an attempted coup to overthrow the government in 2016.

The report said that a near-record number of journalists around the world are behind bars for their work, including two Reuters reporters whose imprisonment in Myanmar has drawn international criticism.

There were 251 journalists jailed for doing their jobs as of Dec. 1, the CPJ said in an annual study. For the third consecutive year, more than half are in Turkey, China and Egypt, where authorities have accused reporters of anti-governmental activities.

“It looks like a trend now,” the report’s author, Elana Beiser, said in an interview. “It looks like the new normal.”

The number of journalists imprisoned on charges of “false news” rose to 28, up from 21 last year and nine in 2016, according to the CPJ, a U.S.-based nonprofit that promotes press freedom.

The report criticized U.S. President Donald Trump for frequently characterizing negative media coverage as “fake news,” a phrase that is also used by leaders against their critics in countries like the Philippines and Turkey.

In Egypt, at least 25 journalists are in prison. Authorities say this is to limit dissent are directed at militants trying to undermine the state.

Meanwhile, when asked about journalists being jailed, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: “Legal measures are not taken because of these suspects’ or criminals’ professions. This is unrelated.”

The overall number of jailed journalists is down eight percent from last year’s record high of 272, the CPJ said.

The total does not take into account journalists who have disappeared or are being held by non-state actors. The CPJ said there are dozens of reporters missing or kidnapped in the Middle East and North Africa, including several held by Houthis in Yemen.

(With Reuters)