"Technicians at the (Hmeimim) airbase have begun preparing aircraft for long-range flights to airbases in the Russian Federation," the defence ministry said in a statement, adding that military equipment was being loaded onto the planes.
    
President Vladimir Putin announced Monday night that Moscow was set to withdraw the "most part" of its troops in Syria, ending its controversial bombing campaign.
    
The move, which came as peace talks to end the five-year conflict were underway in Geneva, is expected to put more pressure on President Bashar al-Assad, Russia's long-standing ally, to negotiate a solution to end the war. Putin said he hoped the withdrawal would provide a "good signal" for all the warring sides in the conflict.

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