Russian President Vladimir Putin has put a conclusion to discourses on the long haul targets of his nation’s military nearness in Syria by saying that his troops are there “to secure Russia’s interests in this critically important part of the world.”
“They will stay there as long as it is beneficial to Russia and to ensure our international obligations. We are not planning to withdraw yet,” Putin said on Thursday in a response to a question during an annual televised phone-in with the Russian public.
But in an attempt to appease Russians, Putin stressed that Moscow is not building long-term military structures at the Hmeimim and Tartous bases.
“Major military operations, particularly involving Russian armed forces, have ended. There isn’t even a need for them anymore,” the president said.
“Firstly, the use of our armed forces in the battlefield is a unique experience, a unique tool by which to improve our armed forces. No amount of military exercise could compare with the use of force in combat conditions,” he added.
Putin also sought to remind the Russian people that thousands of militants left Russia and the countries of Central Asia to fight in Syria.
“It was better to deal with them there, to get to work there, so to speak, and liquidate them there, than let them come back here, weapons in hand,” he said.
During the show, Putin spoke via video link to a Ukrainian woman seriously injured by an explosive device in Syria and who lost an arm and leg.
He promised her Russian citizenship and told her he’ll task the defense ministry for colleagues in Syria to find her Syrian husband and children and bring them to Russia where she is undergoing treatment in a military hospital in the northwestern city of Saint Petersburg.