First Russian warplanes back to hero's welcome

2016-03-15 18:43
A Russian pilot is welcomed at an airbase near the Russian city Voronezh after returning from Syria. (Russian Defence Ministry Press Service, via AP)

A Russian pilot is welcomed at an airbase near the Russian city Voronezh after returning from Syria. (Russian Defence Ministry Press Service, via AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Moscow - A ceremonial flypast, pilots tossed in the air in celebration and dozens of cheering supporters - the first Russian warplanes on Tuesday returned home to a hero's welcome as part of the withdrawal of armed forces from Syria.

Several Su-34 strike fighters landed at an airbase outside the city of Voronezh located about 580km southeast of Moscow after performing a fly-past for top commanders, relatives and supporters.

After pilots disembarked from the aircraft they were tossed in the air in celebration as cheering supporters clutched flags, flowers and balloons, national television showed in a live broadcast.

Critics say that after the start of Russia's aerial campaign in Syria in September, Moscow's powerful propaganda machine shifted its attention from the nearly non-stop coverage of the Ukraine conflict to Syria, the country's first major military engagement outside the former Soviet Union since the occupation of Afghanistan in 1979.

After Putin's surprise order to start pulling back troops the start of the withdrawal of forces from Syria is now being presented on Russian television as nothing short of a victory.

"The Syrian army received a huge support," said Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Air Force, Viktor Bondarev, praising the work of the country's air force in Syria.

"Thanks to your work in Syria, international terrorism sustained significant losses," he told the pilots in televised remarks.

He indicated that Russia's full-scale military presence was no longer needed, adding that the Syrian army, the opposition and other forces would be able to crush the remaining "terrorist gangs" - apparently referring to the Islamic State group and Al-Nusra Front - by themselves.

He also appeared to address claims by rights groups and monitors that accused Russian armed forces of targeting civilians, saying that not a single Russian warplane in Syria missed its target and that civilians would "not hold grudges" against Moscow.

After the official greeting ceremony, the pilots received flowers from women who chanted "congratulations."

Putin launched a bombing campaign in Syria on September 30, saying Moscow needed to target ISIS jihadists before they cross into Russia.

On Monday, the Russian strongman said the country's military goal was "on the whole" completed after a campaign of five-and-a-half months and 9 000 sorties.

Many analysts said the danger of a costly protracted war similar to the Soviet Union's 10-year involvement in Afghanistan was not lost on the Kremlin, with Putin deciding to pull the forces out amid a relative lull in fighting and peace talks.

Read more on:    russia  |  syria

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.