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Putin meets Assad in surprise Syria visit: presidency

Russian President Vladimir Putin met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Tuesday during a surprise visit to Damascus, his first since the start of the nearly nine-year-old war, the presidency said.

“Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Damascus for a visit during which he met President Assad at the headquarters of the Russian forces,” it said in a statement.

The two leaders listened to a military presentation by the commander of Russian forces in Syria, said the presidency, which posted a picture of the two leaders shaking hands.

Putin extended his greetings to Russian forces for the Orthodox Christmas.

The Russian leader had visited Syria in December 2017 but had not been to the capital, only stopping at the Russian base of Hmeimim on the Mediterranean coast.