President Vladimir Putin arrived at the Russia-operated Hmeimim Air Base to celebrate Orthodox Christmas with his troops. He was met there by President Bashar al-Assad, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, and the base commander, General Sergei Surovikin.

He headed next to Damascus where his Syrian counterpart took him to the Great Umayyad Mosque, a place of Christian, Jewish, Christian and Muslim worship. He meditated on the tomb of Saint John the Baptist. From there they went to the Mariamite Cathedral, seat of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East.