January 12, 2017 / 10:29 AM / 8 months ago

Russia says changing make-up of Syria strike force - agencies

A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 front-line bomber is seen on a runway shortly before taking off, part of the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, at Hmeymim airbase, Syria, March 16, 2016. REUTERS/Russian Ministry of Defence/Vadim Grishankin/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE. THE PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Russian Defence Ministry said on Thursday it had started changing the make-up of its strike force in Syria as part of a previously announced partial drawdown, Russian news agencies reported.

The ministry was cited as saying that the first six SU-24 bombers had already been withdrawn, but that four SU-25 ground attack aircraft had flown out to Russia’s Hmeymim air base in Latakia province as part of a planned rotation.

It said further aircraft would be withdrawn along with military personnel stationed at the base.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a ceasefire in Syria in late December and said Russia would pull back some of its forces in Syria, where its military intervention has turned the tide in favour of President Bashar al-Assad.

The head of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, said last week that a Russian naval force led by the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier had begun withdrawing from the east Mediterranean.

Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Maria Kiselyova

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