In a surprise move, Russia has pulled all its military and nondiplomatic civilian personnel out of Syria. That includes a complete evacuation of the naval supply station in the Mediterranean port of Tartus, which is often discussed as one of Russia's key reasons for its long and stubborn support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
"We have neither servicemen nor civilians in Syria anymore. Or Russian military instructors assigned to units of the Syrian regular Army, for that matter," a Russian defense ministry spokesperson is quoted as telling the Moscow business daily Vedomosti yesterday.
The Tartus naval supply station, Russia's only military base outside the former USSR, has been effectively closed, Russian deputy foreign minister and special Middle East envoy Mikhail Bogdanov confirmed in an interview with a Turkish newspaper. He insisted that the base, which housed about 70 fulltime military technicians to service visiting Russian warships, was of no strategic importance to Russia.