President Vladimir Putin dropped a bombshell Monday when he suddenly ordered his defense and foreign ministers to start pulling “the main part” of Russian forces out of Syria the next morning - five months after they intervened  in support of Bashar Assad. Moscow will however retain a military presence at the port of Tartous and the Hmeymim airbase.
"The effective work of our military created the conditions for the start of the peace process," Putin said. "I believe that the task put before the defense ministry and Russian armed forces has on the whole, been fulfilled. With the participation of the Russian military... the Syrian armed forces and patriotic Syrian forces have been able to achieve a fundamental turnaround in the fight against international terrorism and have taken the initiative in almost all respects," Putin said.
Putin phoned Bashar Assad to inform him of the decision. The move was announced on the day UN-brokered talks were to restart between the warning sides in Geneva.