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

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.


Sweden detains Iranian on suspicion of murder in Iran in 1988

Updated 11 min 30 sec ago

Sweden detains Iranian on suspicion of murder in Iran in 1988

  • Human rights groups say the Islamic Republic executed thousands of political detainees in the late 1980s

STOCKHOLM: A 58-year-old Iranian citizen has been arrested in Sweden on suspicion of murder in Iran in 1988, prosecutors said on Wednesday, and national news agency TT said the case involved killings of political prisoners.
Human rights groups say the Islamic Republic executed thousands of political detainees in the late 1980s. Many of them belonged to opposition groups. Iran denies having political prisoners or having executed any such prisoner.
The prosecutor’s detention request said the man was arrested on Nov. 9 after what TT said was his arrival to visit relatives. He was remanded in custody Wednesday pending a decision by Dec. 11 on whether he should be formally charged and put on trial.
TT said the man was suspected of playing a leading role in a prison in Karaj, a city west of the Iranian capital Tehran, where many detainees were executed in 1988.
The man’s lawyer was not immediately available for comment. The lawyer told TT the man denies the allegations.
Iranian officials have denied the late 1980s killings took place. However, in 2016 a 28-year-old audio tape surfaced in which Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the deputy Supreme Leader of Iran at the time, said the executions were the “biggest crimes committed by the Islamic Republic.”
Amnesty International said in a report last year that the lowest estimates put the number of executed at around 5,000.