The lower house of the Russian Parliament has ratified an agreement with Syria to extend Russia’s lease on a naval base at Tartus for 49 years.
The December 21 State Duma vote comes 10 days after President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian military to start withdrawing a "significant portion" of its forces from the war-ravaged Middle Eastern nation while at the same time vowing to leave a military presence in the country.
Franz Klintsevich, a lawmaker with the Federation Council Defense and Security Committee, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying the upper chamber will likely follow the State Duma and ratify the pact on December 26.
Russia has backed the government forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and provided air support since 2015 in the fight against Islamic State (IS) insurgents and U.S.-backed antigovernment rebels. It has operated an air base in Syria since 2015.
The agreement with Syria will allow Russia to keep up to 11 warships, including nuclear-powered vessels, at the Mediterranean base in Tartus at any one time for the next 49 years.
Based on reporting by AP and Interfax