Russia says it starts Syrian drawdown with aircraft carrier

Russia says it is withdrawing its aircraft carrier and some other warships from the waters off Syria as the first step in drawing down forces in Syria.

Russian General Staff chief Gen. Valery Gerasimov said on Saturday that the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier and accompanying ships are to be the first to leave.

He was quoted as saying by the state news agency Tass that "in accordance with the decision by the supreme commander-in-chief (President) Vladimir Putin, the Defense Ministry is starting to downsize the grouping of armed forces in Syria."

Moscow has been a key supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and forces in the Mideast country's devastating civil war.