MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia will maintain a naval and air base in Syria capable of carrying out attacks against "terrorists" if necessary after a partial military withdrawal announced by President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov arrives at the meeting with officials of the Rostec high-tech state corporation at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, on December 7, 201
7. REUTERS / Sergei Karpukhin  Putin ordered "a part" of Moscow's military contingent on Monday to begin withdrawing from Syria, declaring his work largely done.
Putin, who according to polls will be comfortably re-elected in March, made the announcement during a surprise visit to the Russian air base Hmeymim, where he met with President Bashar al-Assad and addressed the Russian forces.
"Thanks to the fact that the operation to save Syria and the liberation of Syrian land from terrorists has been completed, there is no longer a need for a large-scale combat force," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
But he added that Russia will maintain the Hmeymim air base in the Syrian province of Latakia and its naval installation in the port of Tartous.
"The president stressed that the terrorists could try to walk high again in Syria … if that happens, the crushing blows will be carried out," Peskov said.
Information from Denis Pinchuk; Written by Jack Stubbs and Denis Pinchuk; Edition by Richard Balmforth
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