>> They've tipped the bloody stalemate on the battlefield for Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. Now Russia has begun a drawdown of its military forces in Syria. The head of the Russian General Staff announcing a decision has been taken to reduce the numbers of troops deployed there. First to return will be the Russian Navy's aircraft carrier and its fleet of escorts.
The Admiral Kuznetsov deployed in October last year has been operating in the Mediterranean off the Syrian coast. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the partial pull-out of forces after negotiating a cease fire deal with Iran and Turkey in December. The truce has mostly been holding. Its sponsors say it excludes operations against Islamic State and Islamist militias.