Deputy head of Russian Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee says Russia never agreed to an immediate stop to all military operations
Political talks and the "behavior of terrorist organizations" will determine the outcome of the crisis, he says
Russian planes began leaving Syria after Vladimir Putin said Russian goals had been achieved
Russia will continue its military campaign against terrorists in Syria despite beginning a withdrawal, and it now has fewer “misunderstandings” with the United States about “who is who,” a prominent Russian senator tells CNN.
“We never said that we (would) stop immediately all our military operations in Syria,” Andrei Klimov, deputy head of the Russian Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN’s Fred Pleitgen. “We’re speaking about withdrawing the majority of our troops, of our air force, (from) the territory of Syria. That’s true.”
Russian planes began departing Syria on Tuesday after a surprise announcement by President Vladimir Putin that goals had been achieved. The Russian intervention, which began last September, has widely been seen as having rescued Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime from military collapse.
“The situation depends upon really the results of political talks, (on) one side, and (the) behavior of terrorist organizations on the territory of Syria,” Klimov told Pleitgen.
“I believe that … we have not so many misunderstandings with Washington now about who is who.”
Since Russia’s intervention in the Syrian civil war last fall, American officials have routinely accused Moscow of targeting members of the opposition that Washington supports.
Putin’s surprise decision has sent pundits and politicians scrambling to come up with plausible analyses. Among the contributing factors posited is the state of the Russian economy, which has been hard hit by low oil prices.
Klimov denied that the economy played a role in the decision.
“The Western impressions about the situation in my country, about (the) situation with our budget, with incomes of my country, (are) wrong.”
“I can tell you that when we gave permission to Mr. Putin to implement our military forces, we at that time already mentioned that this is not forever.”
“The only reason is that we already achieved our goals. And that’s it.”
Klimov would not specify how much military equipment Russia would leave behind in Syria, saying this was a “technical” and not a “political” question. Putin, in his announcement, said Moscow would maintain an air and naval base.
“As it seems to me, we do not need now a lot of our aircrafts or helicopters in this area,” Klimov said.
Nonetheless, he made clear that keeping the Syrian chaos somewhat contained was still in the Russian interest.
“We are not like Washington, (on) the other side of the ocean,” he said.
“That is why political stability in this area, including in Syria, is very sensitive, very important for my country.”