Syria forces backed by Russian airstrikes advance toward Palmyra

Syrian forces backed by Russian airstrikes have made major gains to the west of the central city of Palmyra, which is held by the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group, a report says.

The Syrian troops were supported by “heavy air cover from Russian jets,” the Lebanese satellite television station affiliated with the resistance movement of Hezbollah reported on Tuesday.

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the bulk of Syria-based Russian military forces to withdraw from the conflict-ridden country. The pullout process started on Tuesday.

A video grab made available on the Russian Defense Ministry’s official website on March 15, 2016 reportedly shows Russian Su-34 bombers and a Tupolev Tu-154 transport plane flying above an unknown location on their way from the Hmeimim airbase in western Syria to their permanent bases in the Russian Federation. ©AFP

Putin’s order came hours after the new round of indirect peace talks between the Damascus government and the foreign-backed opposition, aimed at resolving of the five-year deadly crisis in Syria, resumed in Geneva, Switzerland.

The negotiations are underway as a ceasefire has stood in Syria since February 27.

UN, EU welcome Russia’s Syria pullout

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said the Russian drawdown was a “significant development.”

“We hope it will have a positive impact on the progress of the negotiations in Geneva aimed at achieving a political solution to the Syrian conflict and a peaceful political transition in the country,” de Mistura said in a statement released on Tuesday.

The European Union also welcomed Russia’s announcement that it was pulling out its troops from Syria.

Catherine Ray, a spokeswoman for the EU’s foreign service, said, “Any steps that help achieve de-escalation of violence inside Syria and the prolongation of the cessation of hostilities is very important for the overall peace process.”

Russia launched an aerial campaign against terrorist groups in Syria last September upon a request from Damascus.

According to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people and displaced nearly half of Syria’s pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders.

By Press TV