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In Damascus, Syrians celebrate Putin as their hero. Will they miss him?

Moscow's decision to draw down its Syrian military presence this week on the fifth anniversary of the conflict's start brought an inevitable ripple of uncertainty to Damascus.  Photo: Lorenzo Tugnoli/The Washington Post

DAMASCUS, Syria - Since Moscow lent its air power to the Syrian government's war, Russian leader Vladimir Putin has achieved cult status in Damascus.

His face has joined images of President Bashar Assad on necklaces, mugs and key- rings sold in souvenir shops in the capital. "Together against Terrorism" read posters at checkpoints showing the two men. Army generals affectionately referred to him as "Abu Ali Putin," while some Syrian schools have started offering Russian language classes...

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