MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia will complete the withdrawal of the bulk of its forces from Syria before the end of the week, a top Russian general suggested in an interview published on Thursday (March 17).
"I think this will be over very quickly. Within the timeframe determined by (the president) and the defence minister. Today or tomorrow... within two-three days we will complete the task," Viktor Bondarev, the commander of the Russian Air Force, told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.
The interview was published in the newspaper on Thursday but put online late Wednesday. It was not clear precisely when the general made his remarks.
Russian planes have been flying back home from Syria since Tuesday after President Vladimir Putin gave the surprise order to pull out most of Moscow's forces in the war-torn country.
Russia is set to keep its air base near Latakia in Syria and the Tartus naval facility and it remains unclear what sort of presence exactly Moscow will leave behind.
Bondarev said that along with warplanes, Russia will pull out helicopters by loading them onto cargo planes.
Russia had been carrying out a campaign to bomb "terrorist" targets in Syria since September 30 in a campaign Western powers said mainly went after rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad's forces to bolster his regime.
Bondarev said that between 500 and 700 people who participated in Moscow's airstrike campaign in Syria are set to receive medals.
Putin is set to decorate pilots and personnel who returned from Syria in the Kremlin later Thursday.