On the occasion of Syria's Independence Day, marked on April 17, a large-scale celebration was held at the Khmeimim Russian military base on the Syrian coast. The event, held on April 16, 2021, was attended by Russian officers and figures, and by high-ranking Syrians, including Defense Minister 'Ali Ayyoub, the governors of Latakia and Tartous, Ba'th party branch secretaries in the coastal region, and army officers. It included performances by a Russian orchestra and Russian singers who sang in honor of the Russian troops in Syria. The venue was bedecked with posters praising Russia and with a picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin, alongside a picture of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad (see photos below).
The event sparked many sarcastic responses on social media, especially from Syrian oppositionists, who mocked the fact that Syria's Independence Day – also called Evacuation Day because it marks the day the last of the French troops left Syria in 1946 – was celebrated at the main base of what the opposition sees as the occupying Russian forces. The critics slammed the Syrian regime for allowing this humiliation, and stressed that the real "evacuation day" will arrive when the Russian, Iranian and other foreign forces finally withdraw from Syria.
This report presents some of the responses by the Syrian opposition to the celebration in Khemeimim. 
Syrian Oppositionists: Celebrating Syrian Independence Day At A Military Base Of The Russian Occupation Is Absurd
Several Syrian oppositionists noted the irony of the Russian forces in Syria celebrating the departure of the French occupiers of Syria in 1946. Syrian researcher Radwan Ziadeh tweeted: "Russia celebrates the evacuation of the French forces from Syria with its own occupation [forces] and with Putin's portrait hanging in the background. [We] don't know whether to laugh or to cry."
Radwan Ziadeh's tweet
Syrian journalist and Al-Jazeera TV host Faisal Al-Qassem, a known critic of the Syrian regime, tweeted: "The Russian occupier celebrates the withdrawal of the French occupier from Syria. By God, [I swear] this is not a joke."
Faisal Al-Qassem's tweet
Syrian journalist Khalid Abu Al-Majd tweeted: "Russia, together with the Assad regime, is celebrating the anniversary of the French withdrawal from Syria at the Khmeimim base it is occupying in Latakia."
Syrian Journalist: The Assad Family Has Shattered All Syrian Concepts Of Honor And Nationalism
Syrian journalist Thaer Al-Za'zou' took to Facebook to express his outrage over the event at Khmeimim base. He wrote: "The report [about the event at Khmeimim] posted on the front page of [the website of Syria's official] news agency SANA is what critics call an absurdity. The report, which looks completely ordinary and routine, [actually] presents an in-depth analysis of the Damascus regime, the way it treats 'the people,' and its disrespect for the intelligence and honor of the [SANA] website readers. How can [Independence Day], which is supposed to be the state's national holiday, be celebrated at the [military] base of the occupying country [Russia]? How can this be justified to the public, along with the humiliating [fact that Syria's] defense minister was invited to this event and was seen sitting [there], listening to statements by the officers of the Russian occupation? How will he face his wife and grandchildren, and what will he say to them when he comes back home? I keep saying that this hated [Assad] family has shattered the [concepts of] honor, morality and nationalism [and divested them of any] content, and has even shattered the concept of dictatorship – to the extent that it hasn't a single fig leaf left to cover up its evil actions…"
Syrian journalist Hassan Jneed posted a cartoon showing Assad in a dress dancing for his Russian hosts under signs saying "Evacuation Day" and "Khmeimim."
Syrian Activists: The Real Evacuation Day Will Come When Russia And Iran Leave Syria
Several Syrian activists wrote that Syria will only achieve real independence when the Russian and Iranian forces leave its territory. Hussein Al-Hariri tweeted: "The real evacuation [needed] is the evacuation of criminal Russia, murderous Iran and their agent, the corrupt Bashar [Al-Assad], along with his hangmen, from the blessed soil of Syria. The Evacuation Day celebration held by the Russian occupation [in Khmeimim] is the height of insolence."
Hussein Al-Hariri's tweet
Activist Fattum 'Abd Al-Fattah wrote on her Twitter account in a similar vein: "The Russians celebrate Evacuation Day in Khmeimim. The [real] evacuation will come when the last of the Russian and Iranian troops, and all the foreign militias, leave our Syria."
Fatum 'Abd Al-Fattah's tweet
Senior Oppositionist: We Must Resist The Russian Occupation In Syria Like We Resisted The< French Occupation
In an article he published in response to the event at Khmeimim, Yahya Al-'Aridi, member of the Syrian opposition's High Negotiation Committee, stated that the Russian presence in Syria is worse than the French mandate was, and urged the Syrians to fight it as they fought the French at the time. He wrote: "April 17 is an anniversary dear to the heart of every Syrian, but Syria's present casts a pall of sorrow over these beautiful memories. Therefore, I wouldn't even have considered discussing [this] anniversary, which causes pain to the Syrians, had it not been for what occurred yesterday in the Syrian [base] of Khmeimim, which has become a base of the Russian occupation in Syria. In a paradoxical, strange, bizzare and insolent manner, the Russian occupation held a celebration at Khmeimim to mark the anniversary of the French withdrawal from Syria, as though the Russian presence in Syria is a sign of liberty, democracy and [the rule of] law…
"[Syria's] 'internal' occupation [by the Assad regime], and the [Russian and Iranian] occupations it has brought [upon us], cannot be compared to the French occupation… Nevertheless, a simple comparison [shows that], if the French built schools and hospitals [in Syria], the Russian occupation built military bases and destroyed schools and hospitals [there]. If the French occupation established laws, courts and a judiciary [in Syria], the Russian occupation is employing a scorched-earth policy and sentencing the Syrian people to greater bondage and submission.
"Evacuation Day is dear to the hearts of the Syrians, [but] the tyrannical [Assad] regime and its Russian protectors turned it into a hated [day] that makes their hearts heavy by marking this occasion with a celebration and speeches at Khmeimim. What insolent creatures they are. It is a duty to wage resistance against them. The Syrians will repeat what they did in the previous century [against the French occupation], in order to win back their freedom and independence… How terrible that a 'superpower' like the great Russia is ruled by a dictator who recently issued a decree indefinitely extending his rule there. He wants to do the same in our country, but that will not happen. The Syrians will achieve their independence and expel all the occupiers along with those who brought them [i.e., the Assad regime]. We take this opportunity to apologize to the fathers of Syria's first [war of] independence, and to congratulate in advance the heroes of its second [war of independence], which is imminent."
 Sana.sy, April 16, 2021.
 Sana.sy, April 16, 2021.
 Syria.tv, April 19, 2021.
 Twitter.com/radwanziadeh, April 16, 2021.
 Twitter.com/kasimf, April 17, 2021.
 Twitter.com/khalidaboalmjed, April 16, 2021.
 Facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011163164799, April 16, 2021.
 Twitter.com/Hasan_Jneed, April 17, 2021.
 Twitter.com.HussenShaam123, April 17, 2021.
 Twitter.com/fattumabdulfat1, April 17, 2021.