Russia will complete the withdrawal of most of its military contingent in Syria before the end of the week, a top Russian general has told local media.
In an interview with Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda, Viktor Bondarev, the commander of the country’s air force, said the withdrawal “will be over very quickly”.
He added: “Within the timeframe determined by (the president) and the defence minister. Today or tomorrow … within two-three days we will complete the task.”
The interview was published in the newspaper on Thursday, but was put online late on Wednesday. It was not clear precisely when the general made his remarks.
Bondarev’s comments came two days after President Vladimir Putin ordered his military to start the withdrawal from Syria, saying that the Russian forces had largely achieved their objectives.
Moscow, however, would keep a contingent at its air and naval bases in Syria, Putin said on Tuesday.
Bondarev said that along with warplanes, Russia will pull out helicopters by loading them onto cargo planes.
He added that between 500 and 700 people who participated in Moscow’s air strike campaign in Syria are set to receive medals.
The first group of Russian warplanes that left Syria arrived in Russia on Tuesday, while the second group of jets left Khmeimim airbase in Syria on Wednesday.
The aircraft, including Su-25 bombers and Il-76 airlifters, carried technicians as well as equipment and materials.
The number of Russian soldiers in Syria has never been revealed, but US estimates suggest it varies from 3,000 to 6,000 military personnel on the ground.