Russian television shows air force servicemen at Hmeymim air base in Syria packing equipment, after President Vladimir Putin ordered most of his country's military contingent there to start to withdraw. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
NATURAL ROUGH CUT (No reporter Narration) STORY: Russian state television on Tuesday (March 15) showed personnel at Russia's air base in Syria loading transport aircraft for return to Russia a day after President Vladimir Putin ordered most of his country's military contingent there to start to withdraw. The images, broadcast on the Rossiya 24 TV station, showed personnel loading equipment and boxes onto Ilyushin Il-76 heavy lift transport aircraft at Russia's Hmeymim air base in Latakia province. The Kremlin has used the base, which Putin said Russia would keep along with a naval facility at Tartous, to mount a 5-month campaign of air strikes to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an intervention that has tipped the balance of power in the Syrian leader's favour. Putin announced on Monday (March 14) that "the main part" of Russian armed forces in Syria would start to withdraw, telling his diplomats to step up the push for peace as U.N.-mediated talks resumed on ending the five-year-old war. The Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that technical staff had begun preparing aircraft to fly back to their bases in Russia in line with Putin's orders. Russia has maintained a strike force at the Hmeymim base of at least 50 aircraft and helicopters. It said the planes would break their journey home of more than 5,000 kilometers (3106.86 miles) to refuel at intermediary bases inside Russia.