Vladimir Putin declared victory in Syria on a surprise visit to the country Monday and announced that he'd ordered the withdrawal of Russian troops. He was joined by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during his visit to the Khmeimim air base, which was Putin's first known trip to the country, reports the Washington Post. He said he had ordered the withdrawal of "troop contingents" to their home bases in Russia, though he added that the air base and Russia's naval base in Syria would remain. He also said there would be more strikes "if terrorists raise their head again."
"You are victorious, and you are going home to your families, parents, wives, children, and friends," Putin told Russian pilots. "The fatherland is waiting for you, my friends. Have a safe trip home. I am grateful for your service." Later in the day, the Russian leader visited Cairo and Ankara for talks. Russia's 2015 intervention in the Syrian civil war probably preserved Assad's regime, and the BBC's Steve Rosenberg notes that it's probably no coincidence that Assad declared victory and ordered troop withdrawals just a week after announcing that he will stand for re-election. (Read more Syria stories.)