Russia's President Vladimir Putin embraces his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad during a meeting in Sochi last month
Moscow (AFP) - Russia has been a staunch diplomatic, military and political supporter of President Bashar al-Assad since the Syrian conflict began in 2011.
Here are some of the key events of its involvement:
- UN vetoes -
In April 2011 -- six weeks after the start of unprecedented protests in Syria -- Russia and China veto a proposed United Nations declaration drafted by Western countries to condemn Assad's crackdown on the Syrian opposition.
Then in October, Moscow and Beijing block a proposed UN Security Council resolution, also initiated by the West, to impose "targeted measures" against Assad's regime.
In total Russia has vetoed 11 draft resolutions to protect its Syrian ally from Western pressure.
- Chemical weapons initiative -
In September 2013, Russia and the United States agree in Geneva to a deal under which Syria's chemical weapons are to be dismantled.
The accord defuses a crisis that might have led to US-led strikes against Syrian forces, which were accused of a chemical attack on August 21 near Damascus that left hundreds dead.
- Military intervention: a turning point -
In March 2015, Assad welcomes a larger Russian military presence in his country's ports.
From late August, Russia has at its disposal an air base in Hmeimim in the Syrian coastal province of Latakia, an Assad stronghold.
In late September 2015, Russia, at the Damascus regime's request, launches air strikes on Syria in support of Assad's troops.
It is the first time that Russia has pursued major military operations abroad since Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989.
In October 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin ratifies an accord between Damascus and Moscow on the "indefinite" deployment of Russia's air force at the Hmeimim air base.
The Russian fire power effectively turns the tables in favour of the regime, which takes the upper hand, including retaking Aleppo in late December 2016.
- Sponsor of Astana talks -
In January 2017, Russia and Iran, as backers of the Syrian regime, and Turkey, supporting the rebels, organise the first talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, between representatives of both sides.
The United States is not invited.
Seven rounds of negotiations have since taken place and have led to the creation of four so-called "de-escalation zones" that produced a drop in violence, although sporadic fighting and bombardment has continued.
- Assad in Sochi -
On November 20 Putin meets Assad in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, on the eve of a three-way summit between the Russian, Turkish and Iranian presidents.
Putin hails Assad for "fighting terrorists", saying "the Syrian nation is going through a very serious experience and nonetheless is approaching the final, inevitable defeat of the terrorists," the Kremlin quoted him as saying.