The Russian Armed Forces have inflicted major damage on terrorists in Syria, which helped facilitate talks between Damascus and opposition, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.
“[You] caused significant damage to international terrorist groups, their bases, their arms and munitions depots, the equipment and infrastructure. And of course, this facilitated the positive results of all countries which are fighting international terrorism in this case in Syria, and promoted the creation of conditions to continue the peace talks between the Syrian government and the armed opposition,” Putin said speaking to Russian servicemen on the Defender of the Fatherland Day.
Thousands of militants from Russia and former Soviet republics are presently in Syria, Putin said.
“For us, it is not less, or maybe more, important that unfortunately great numbers of militants hailing from the former Soviet Union and Russia itself gathered in Syria. According to preliminary data, we are speaking of thousands. According to the Main Intelligence Agency and the Federal Security Service, up to 4,000 people from Russia and some 5,000 from republics of the former Soviet Union,” the president said.
Russian servicemen ensured Russia’s security while carrying out combat tasks in Syria, and their experience will be studied and used in the future.
“I very much hope that the experience you have acquired in the course of this military operation will be carefully studied and used in the future by you, and by the coming new generations of the Russian sailors,” Putin said.
Vladimir Putin congratulated Russian servicemen on the Defender of the Fatherland Day and thanked them for successes in fighting international terrorism in Syria.
“I want to congratulate you and to thank for the combat work you have done. You have opened a new page in the history of the Russian Navy. And it is not only that the successful campaign was so far and complicated, but since it was challenged by the opposition to our efforts in fight with international terrorism by our so-called partners,” Putin said.
He noted that the work in Syria was carried out “with dignity,” since many things were done for the first time, including the use of MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets and high-precision weapons.
The president said that it was his own initiative to send the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft-carrying cruiser to Syria.
A group of Russian warships headed by Admiral Kuznetsov, accompanied by the Pyotr Veliky battle cruiser, the Severomorsk and Vice-Admiral Kulakov anti-submarine destroyers, the Admiral Grigorovich frigate and support vessels, carried out a counterterrorism operation in Syria starting on November 8. On January 6, Russian military said the naval aviation had destroyed 1,252 terrorist targets.
Since 2011, Syria has been engulfed in a civil war, with government forces fighting against numerous opposition and terrorist groups, including al-Nusra Front and Daesh, banned in a range of countries, including Russia.
Moscow has been conducting a counter-terrorist campaign in Syria since September 30, 2015, at President Bashar Assad’s request.
Putin announced in December that the Syrian government and armed opposition groups had reached an agreement on a nationwide ceasefire in Syria and on readiness to start peace talks.