After two years of extensive operations, President Vladimir Putin has ordered the withdrawal of some Russian military personel from Syria.
Declaring mission accomplished, the leader, who paid a surprise visit to the Russian airbase in the country, told troops that “the motherland is waiting for [them]”.
He insisted that, although scepticism was warranted given that two previous withdrawal announcements had been met with little noticeable scaling down, this time is different.
The head of the Russian army said earlier this month that ISIL had at last been routed from Syria.
Both the Russian and Syrian air forces were accused of brutal bombing tactics during the campaign, but through sustained airstrikes on rebel groups, Moscow has helped Assad win back control of much of the country.
Assad praised Russia’s efforts to aid his government and said Syrian people would never forget the country’s help.
Russia hopes to convene a peace conference that would help it bypass the US as a new power broker in the Middle East.