One of the key reasons for the Kremlin's late direct involvement in Syria was to divert attention from struggling and suffering Donbass, and, indeed, the Russian state media quickly and almost totally forgot about the Russians there and what they have been actually fighting for (hint: not for the Minsk deal).
If Donbass was mentioned, then just to repeat to them that there is only way is the Minsk way--back into the lap of the Banderite regime and that this is what they are also fighting for. Now, as we can see, the Kremlin wants to extricate itself from Syria.
The notion of "moderate" rebels used by the West in the war on Syria are a lie, which, interestingly, Moscow itself adopted almost right away after its limited intervention there last year, which came out as part of its ongoing talks with the Obama administration and as a key element in trying to foster on Syria a “joint” US-Russian “peace plan.”
The "moderate rebels" are a lie because al Qaeda and/or its allies have never been "moderate." Moreover, however, to claim that "moderate rebels" (either as a fiction or as a deliberately misnamed force of militants) has been "gotten rid of" is a lie too. These "moderate rebels" are now made a key part of the new ceasefire and "peace" announced from Moscow. Thus Putin did not remove these “moderate rebels” from Syria, but adopted the lie as if it is a truth and built its "peace" on this foundation.
The reasons why Putin negotiated with the US and Saudi Arabia Russia's late and limited entry into the Syrian conflict four years into the fighting has a similar logic and roots which are also in the foundation of the Minsk deal.
The main ambition and intent behind this joint Russian-US cunning move was to legitimize the fiction of the “moderate” rebels and to make these Qaeda allies a “legitimate” part of the new regime that was supposed to emerge by handing to them the rest of still free (of al Qaeda) Syria together with the state apparatus and the army. In word, the idea was to use Russia much in the same way Russia was used with respect to Yugoslavia and Milosevic—to have Russia as a supposed friend and ally deliver the victim, Russia’s nominal friend and ally, to “consensual” capitulation.
At the same time, the real fundamental news, which the Kremlin tried to push away, is that Russia has been now in a serious economic and social crisis for the last three years which again Moscow has tried to hide or cover up as much as possible. Russia's social and economic condition is mainly due to the mafia oligarchic mismanagement, (im)morality, plunder and greed. Putin is part of the oligarchic system, its flag and face.
Step by step, the Kremlin is running out of fictitious and fake triumphs, while ever more openly moving toward one of its final supposed triumphs--the struggle against and defeat of Russian patriotism, dignity and honor. The massive attempts to lie, deceive, and hide are massive and ongoing.
One cannot truly love Russia if one loves Russian (so radically anti-Russian) oligarchs, and if one loves or adores the oligarch-in-chief, VVP, then one would also need to “love” his mafia mismanagement and systemic degradation of Russia … as well as his lies.