Russia's defense minister has visited the Russian military base in Syria.

The Defense Ministry said Saturday that Sergei Shoigu met with Russian pilots and visited their quarters at the Hemeimeem air base.

The ministry said Shoigu discussed the current operations with the Russian commander in Syria, Col. Gen. Alexander Dvornikov, and inspected the S-400 air defense missile systems protecting the base in the coastal province of Lattakia.

Russia has conducted its air campaign in Syria since last September, helping Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces win back some ground.

A U.S.- and Russian- brokered cease-fire that began on Feb. 27 has helped reduce hostilities, but fierce fighting has continued in many areas. The Islamic State group and the al-Qaida branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, have been excluded from the truce.