Capture of Palmyra shows Russian forces still key in Syria

A Syrian government soldier raises the Syrian national flag in front of the citadel of the ancient city of Palmyra after they recaptured the site from the control of the Islamic State group on March 27, 2016Russia’s role in helping Syrian forces recapture the ancient city of Palmyra has left the West scrambling to figure out President Vladimir Putin’s game plan, following hopes he was edging away from supporting President Bashar al-Assad. The seizure of the UNESCO World Heritage site on Sunday by forces fighting for Assad delivered the biggest blow so far to Islamic State jihadists and is a major coup both for Damascus and Moscow. The military action comes after Putin announced he was withdrawing most of his forces from Syria, brokered with the United States a ceasefire in the country and raised Western hopes that Russia is edging away from its strong support for Assad.

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