President Vladimir Putin's announcement of the withdrawal of Russian military personnel and planes from Syria has taken many by surprise.

Some have speculated that it represents an attempt by Moscow to press Syrian President Bashar al-Assad towards a political settlement.

However, Damascus has dismissed any talk of differences with Russia; it says the move was coordinated between the two countries.

Other analysts argue that as the Russian air campaign focused mostly on rebel groups battling Assad in western Syria, Russia can claim its mission was accomplished.

Its bombing helped Assad reclaim strategically important ground near the border with Turkey and near the border with Jordan in the south.

Russia's announcement has raised hopes that this week's talks in Geneva could yield some results.

But has Moscow really achieved its objectives in Syria? And if so, what would that mean for President Assad?

Presenter: Laura Kyle

Guests:

Mark Sleboda: International relations and security analyst

Janine di Giovanni: Middle East editor for Newsweek and author of 'The Morning They Came For Us: Dispatches from Syria'

Shashank Joshi: Senior research fellow, Royal United Services Institute

Source: Al Jazeera