Vladimir Putin has used his annual live TV phone-in to say that Russia’s intervention in Syria left the government’s forces there in a position to take the offensive.
The president added that Moscow was doing everything to stop the situation from deteriorating.
By withdrawing its forces, he said, Russia had not “dropped everything”.
“After the main part of our military contingent was withdrawn from Syria we left the Syrian army in a situation which enabled it to mount serious offensive operations with the support of the part of our military which stayed there. And already the Syrian army has taken over Palmyra since our partial withdrawal,” Putin said.
The Russian leader blamed the recent upsurge of fighting around Aleppo on rebel groups, and said the ultimate solution for Syria would not be solved only by military efforts, but had to be political.
“You have to find a solution, to sit at the negotiating table, adopt (a new) constitution and on the basis of that hold elections to get out of the crisis.”
As in previous years, Putin responded to a variety of questions – from the economy and foreign policy to his personal life.
He denied that his country was “encircled by enemies” such as Ukraine and Turkey, pointing to a number of alliances to prove that Russia was not isolated.
The president also responded to complaints about the economy, pay arrears and the poor state of Russia’s roads.
Asked whether he might remarry, Putin replied that it wasn’t important but that ‘one day’ he might satisfy the viewer’s curiosity.