031416SENNOTT.mp3

Russian President Vladimir Putin stunned the international community today when he announced he would be withdrawing the "main part" of Russian troops from Syria, saying they had largely achieved their objectives.

It's a surprising turn against embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has presided over five years of war in Syria during which 250,000 people have been killed, 7 million have been displaced within Syria, and 4 million have become refugees. Assad counts Putin as one of his major allies.

Putin's surprise announcement is the latest development in a two-weekceasefirein the Syrian Civil War, as opposition groups meet with Assad—under the guidance of American and Russian diplomats—to see if a more lasting peace can be hammered out.

Charles Sennott, veteran reporter and head of The GroundTruth Project, remains cautiously optimistic about the chances for peace. 

"I've been very hesitant to admit I thought this wouldn't amount to anything. I'm really thrilled to be wrong," Sennott said. "Every day matters now."

One of the major sticking points moving forward, Sennott said, will be how to handle Assad. American diplomats, including Secretary of State John Kerry, are urging a political transition to remove Assad from office and move the country closer to holding free elections. Assad himself claims he should be able to run in any future elections, which Syrian opposition groups vehemently oppose.

ISIS and the al-Nusra Front, two extremist Islamic fundamentalist groups, are not represented at the talks.

Charles Sennott is a veteran reporter and the head of The GroundTruth Project.  To hear more from Sennott, tune in to Boston Public Radio above.