Syrian Civil War

Putin pays surprise visit to Syria, where Assad tells him: 'Thanks a million'

Putin pays surprise visit to Syria, where Assad tells him: 'Thanks a million'

In July 2015, the defeat of Syrian President Bashar Assad appeared imminent.

His troops, overstretched and exhausted, had lost too many men, and a string of humiliating defeats meant the government controlled only a quarter of the country.

Two months later, Russian warplanes streaked through Syria’s skies, hurling bombs at Assad’s adversaries and starting a reversal of fortune that, more than two years later, has forced most of those enemies to accede that he will remain.

That was the backdrop to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s surprise visit to a Syrian air base on Monday, where he met with Assad and declared that Moscow would begin a drawdown of troops following...

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