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Putin to Assad: Do svidaniya

Russian President Vladimir Putin is saying "do svidaniya" — goodbye — to Syria, announcing the start of a Russian military withdrawal that Putin said he hoped would bolster Syria peace talks underway in Geneva.
Russian President Vladimir Putin waves to the Federal Assembly after a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow March 18, 2014. Putin and two Crimean leaders signed a treaty on Tuesday on making the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula a part of Russia. The signing in the Kremlin came two days after Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and join Russia in a referendum condemned by the Ukrainian government, the United States and the European Union as illegitimate. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov (RUSSIA - Ta
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WASHINGTON — In a surprise move that he said he hoped would bolster Syria peace talks, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he would start to withdraw most Russian military forces from Syria starting March 15. The decision to partly withdraw from Syria, which Putin said he discussed during a phone call with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad March 14, is likely to put pressure on the Assad regime to negotiate more seriously at UN-hosted peace talks with the opposition, which resumed in Geneva on March 14. The decision follows remarks from Syria’s foreign minister over the weekend that any talk of Assad’s future was a “red line” at the Geneva talks.

“I hope today’s decision will be a good signal for all conflicting parties” at the Geneva talks, Putin said following a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on March 14, Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported. “I hope it will sizably increase trust of all participants in the process.”

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