The Kremlin has indicated it will push for a Syria-wide ceasefire following victory of Russian-backed Assad forces in Aleppo as President Vladimir Putin begins his annual marathon press conference.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted by Russia's RIA state news agency as saying after the successful evacuation of rebel fighters and civilians from rebel-held east Aleppo that conditions had been set for a ceasefire across Syria.
"In my view we are very close to achieving an agreement on a full ceasefire across the territory of Syria," Shoigu said at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, just ahead of the Russian leader's annual press conference.
On Thursday (22 December) the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said convoys of buses and hundreds of cars would take the last remaining evacuees to opposition held areas in the west of the country, the last phase of the evacuation.
Around 34,000 people have been evacuated from the besieged city since ceasefire rescue operations began on Thursday 15 December.
At the same time, however, the UN warned that thousands remained in eastern Aleppo in dire conditions. "The process for evacuation was traumatic, with crowding, and vulnerable people waiting for hours and exposed to sub-zero temperatures," UN spokesman Farhan Haq said.
On Tuesday (20 December) Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hosted the foreign ministers of Turkey and Iran in Moscow in a major meeting to discuss the Syrian crisis.
Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan were key players in securing the ceasefire in Syria's embattled city of Aleppo. Both leaders have called for peace talks in the central Asian nation of Kazakhstan to end the bloodshed in Syria.
The announcement comes as Putin begins his annual 'marathon' press conference. Over 1,400 Russian and international journalists have gathered in Moscow for the event where Syria is expected to be central to discussions.
Last month's US election results, as well as Russian domestic issues are also expected to come to the fore. The conference was postponed for a day to allow Putin to attend the funeral of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov who was assassinated in Ankrara.