Russia was completing the withdrawal of its citizens and military personnel from its naval base in Syria, Saudi daily Al Watan reported on Sunday.
Free Syrian Army Major Maher al-Naimi told the paper that Russian and Cypriot ships docked at the port in order to evacuate the remaining Russian technicians as well as 52 of the 72 armored vehicles from the military installation.
Al-Naimi said the Syrian opposition considers the Tartus base as part of Syria that is occupied by Russia and that it will be liberated once the Russian military leaves. He claimed that Russia was evacuating because it recognized the Syrian opposition’s military upper hand.
He added that the Syrian opposition would not continue Damascus’s level of strategic partnership with Moscow, Tehran, and Beijing, and that the Russian military “was not welcome” in Syria.
In August, Russia sent 11 warships to the Mediterranean, some of which were bound for the Tartus naval facility. The New York Times reported that “nearly half of the ships were capable of carrying hundreds of marines.”
Moscow has operated the naval facility at Tartus since signing an agreement with Damascus in 1971. Although it is merely a ship repair and refueling station with a limited military presence, it is the sole remaining Russian military base outside of the former Soviet Union.